January 21, 2021 – There is not much fat in Tom Hank's screenplay about an inexperienced U.S. Navy Captain trying to get a convoy safely from America to England past a German submarine wolfpack during World War II.
Based on the novel, “The Good Shepherd” by C.S. Forester (who also wrote “The African Queen” by the way) there is almost no letup in the action during the bulk of the movie. Hanks plays Commander Ernest Krause who is commanding an international convoy bound for Liverpool from a destroyer codenamed Greyhound.
The action begins after the convoy leaves American air cover behind, and before it enters the area where it will be protected by British air cover, an area known as the “Black Pit” where the convoy of 37 Allied ships will be most vulnerable to submarine attacks. During the war, such attacks sunk over 3,500 Allied ships and over 70,000 lives were lost.
Krause is an experienced captain, but this is his first convoy, and he makes some mistakes, faced with almost constant life-or-death decisions over hours of almost constant combat. At one point he runs low on depth charges after wasting some on a German sonar decoy. Later, he regrets a difficult decision to rescue some sailors, while putting many more on another ship at risk at the same time. Some of the other military escort ships also run low on fuel and ammunition during the attacks.
Tactics in Greyhound's battles against the submarines are hampered by limitations of the technology of the day, sonar, radar, and a sub radio locating device called a Huff-Duff (High Frequency Direction Finder or HF/DF). The German subs also listen in on Allied radio communications. One German submarine commander taunts the Allied ships on their own radio frequencies from time to time.
This role is, of course, tailor made for Hanks, who gives a performance similar to the one he gave in “Saving Private Ryan.” There is a brief, almost superfluous scene at the beginning of the film, with Evelyn (Elizabeth Shue of “The Saint”) a woman that Krause wants to marry, but the war keeps them apart. There are visual references to this relationship during the rest of the film.
The film's action scenes are intense, and very realistic-looking. Director Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”) has an eye for action (because he is also a cinematographer) using a variety of shots from onboard to overhead to put the action maneuvers into context and show how dangerous the combat conditions are.
This is a solid war film. Aside from Krause, there is no real depth of character, but as a naval war action film, it rocks! Besides Krause, the character who gets the next most screen time is Krause's executive officer, (played by Stephen Graham of “The Irishman”) followed by George Cleveland (played by Rob Morgan of “Mudbound”) a mess attendant who worries about Krause and repeatedly tries to serve him food in the brief periods between battles. This movie rates a B.
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