Review of the thrilling war drama "Greyhound"

The naval drama Greyhound with Tom Hanks in the title role is the first Hollywood blockbuster, the authors of which, Sony Pictures, surrendered to the mercy of COVID-19 and decided, without waiting for the opening (or re-closing) of cinemas, to release their film immediately in digital form. On July 10, 2020, despite Hanks' nagging, Greyhound hit Apple TV +.

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I have always believed that Fletcher-class destroyers won the war ... they were the heart and soul of the small fleet.
Lieutenant Commander Fred Edwards

We probably agree with Tom Hanks, who dreamed of seeing Greyhound on the big screen. The tension of the film, which is essentially one long 48-hour fight, skillfully pumped up by a disturbing soundtrack and powerful sound effects, would surely be felt better in a movie theater, where sound can be felt even in the chest and the screen takes up most of the field of view. But even on TV, the film looks good - it is a high-quality military drama that tells about two days in the life of a destroyer captain of a convoy escorting civilian ships in the North Atlantic.


Greyhound, written by Hanks himself, is based on the novel The Good Shepherd by marine writer Cecil Scott Forester. This is one of the few works of Forester dedicated to World War II, the fame of the writer brought a series of novels about Captain Hornblower, the events of which take place much earlier, in 1794-1848. The Good Shepherd / Greyhound hero is the captain of the destroyer USS Keeling, Ernest Krause, who received his first assignment on a ship and is sailing across the Atlantic as the commander of an escort group for an American convoy. Naturally, on his very first campaign, Krause encounters one of the famous "wolf packs" of Admiral Doenitz.

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The film was directed by an Oscar winner (for the short film Two Soldiers) Aaron Schneider, who has not worked in big cinema for more than ten years. Nevertheless, he and Hanks managed to create a very unusual film, which, through the routine of the simplest operations, through staccato orders and short radio texts between ships, conveys the colossal tension of the sea battle, the burden of responsibility resting on the shoulders of the captain. Greyhound has no pathos at all, fighting here takes place mostly deep in command posts and conning towers, tension is transmitted through sonar squeak, nervous handwritten ship markings on the map and changing azimuth and range values. In the film there are several spectacular scenes of the battle in which the USS Keeling deviates from torpedoes, passes right next to a civilian ship or shoots a surfaced submarine with all its guns, but completely different moments frighten and cause nervous shivers.

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For more realism, Greyhound was filmed aboard a real WWII destroyer USS Kidd (DD-661). This Fletcher-class destroyer, the most massive class of warships in history, has become a museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sea scenes were filmed on board a modern ship, the Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montréal (FFH 336).

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As in the original novels by Cecil Scott Forester, the filmmakers do not bother to clarify the nautical terminology, bringing down dialogues that are almost 80% jargon on the viewer. And, unlike Forester's novels, there is no nautical dictionary at the end of the book. If you are familiar with the terminology, you will float, if not, then you will lose some of your viewing pleasure.

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Greyhound concentrates almost one hundred percent on the figure of the captain, that is, on the character of Hanks. This is his fight, his responsibility and his mistakes. The rest of the heroes of the film are nothing more than auxiliary organs that the captain needs to control the ship and conduct battle. Actually, this is what the film is rightly criticized for: the images of the characters, except for the character of Hanks, are completely not disclosed here. The length of the film is short, and the richness of events is high, there is simply no time for emotional throwing and lengthy conversations.

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But what we definitely have questions about is the logic of what is happening. How can an officer who has just received command of a ship and set off on his first military campaign be appointed to command a convoy? Nonsense. How and, most importantly, why do the boats of the "wolf pack" communicate with the enemy? Why would boats even hunt for a nimble and dangerous convoy ship, because their goal is transport? In addition, the most attentive fans of maritime history will certainly notice the discrepancy between the classes of boats operating within the same flock, the time period, the discrepancy between the emblems on the deckhouses, etc. Yes, it is important for someone, but I think we will forgive the authors of the film for these small liberties, they still needed to show the hunters as some kind of underwater demons, somewhat impersonal and deadly.

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Prior to the film's release, Greyhound was compared to the legendary underwater epic Das Boot (1981). No, Greyhound undoubtedly falls short of the masterpiece of Wolfgang Petersen and Lothar-Gunther Buchheim, yet Buchheim himself served on that boat and described what he saw with his own eyes, and the story told in Greyhound was invented. However, Greyhound complements Das Boot nicely, allowing you to look at submarine warfare from a different perspective. In any case, this is a good film to watch, even if not quite in the format that Tom Hanks would like.


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