Episode 238: Greyhound

This week we cover the Tom Hanks penned and led intensely focused WW II Naval war film based on 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester.

Greyhound Spoiler Review – 0:09:29

The Connecting Point – 0:50:05

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Rating: PG-13 / Runtime: 1 hour and 31 minutes

“Greyhound” is a fictional wartime Naval drama set over a 5-day period early in 1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic and is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester. Like the novel it is adapted from, director Aaron Schneider’s film tells the story of Commander Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) as he experiences his first wartime action while leading an international convoy of 35+ merchant ships and Naval vessels across a dangerous section of the Atlantic dubbed the “Black Pit”, where ships were out of range and unable to rely on tactical air support. Schneider chooses to drop us directly into the action almost immediately and the film’s runtime of barely over 90 minutes is a gripping, intense sequence of cat and mouse played by the Navy destroyer and handful of dangerous German U-boats hunting the convoy. Unlike many wartime epics that rely on dramatic backstory and character building of the crew and enemy, “Greyhound” instead is experienced entirely from Krause’s point of view as he battles fatigue, self-doubt due to his own inexperience, and depression in addition to tumultuous weather, shortcomings of sonar and radar systems, and the enemy submarines themselves. In fact, there is nary a single named German individual met – the threat is the wolfpack of U-boats themselves and they are plenty deadly without knowing anything about the people who run them. The resulting picture is an engrossing one that thoroughly captures the oftentimes split-second chaotic decision-making that must take place in times of direct Naval conflict. Through the chaos and fear, Hanks carefully portrays Krause as a man who makes smart, quick decisions, and as a man of faith and respected leader whose fellow Officers and crew genuinely believe in and trust despite his own insecurities.

Hanks’ performance carries the emotional load and pairs perfectly with the incredibly well-shot Naval action by cinematographer Shelly Johnson. While some viewers may find the constant dark and stormy blue-gray color palette unappealing, I can tell you from personal experience that it is an accurate representation of how cold and miserable life out at sea in this area can be. Aerial shots of battle maneuvers were particularly awesome to watch, and throughout the film, Johnson is able to show us clearly the precision Naval tactics needed to succeed against such a harrowing threat, no small feat when the majority of camerawork is from the viewpoint of the ship’s bridge. A constantly pulse-pounding score by composer Blake Neely and exceptional sound design (the depth charge explosions, torpedoes, and 5-inch guns are loud and powerful just as they should be) help to round out some of the most immersive cinematic Naval warfare ever.

Hanks also penned the screenplay for the film and between the dialogue and his performance you can see that he has a passion for telling this story. His dedication to using correct Navy jargon was admirable and greatly enhanced the experience for this former Navy sailor. I found myself frequently noticing how accurate commands being given and life aboard the ship were. This is definitely a difficult choice for a writer to make because it means that some of the terms will not be understood by the audience, but I feel that Schneider took care to show enough visually that viewers will be able to follow what is taking place aboard the ship at all times.

“Greyhound” surprised me with its hyper-focused and claustrophobic storytelling and non-stop intensity, and it thrilled me with its tactical realism, but also managed to affect me emotionally as I considered how many lives were lost to battles like this one and what kind of stress civilian and military sailors must have faced during every crossing. Hanks is fantastic as the subdued Captain of the USS Keeling (call sign “Greyhound”) and has this ship sailing into 2020 claiming its place as one of the most historically accurate and best films centered around Navy combat to ever be made.


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: May 11-24

LESSON #1: IF ENOUGH PEOPLE YELL LONG ENOUGH THEY OCCASIONALLY GET THEIR WAY— By far the biggest industry news this week was the rumor-destroying announcement that the long-rumored “Snyder Cut” of Justice League will see the light of TV screens on HBO Max next year. It’s rare to see urban legends come true, and it’s even rarer to see collective efforts move a needle in the entertainment industry. This whole campaign has brought out the best and worst of the internet, from fan support for creators and charitable goals on one side to every matter of entitled vilification possible known to Twitter and man. Besides the possible success or failure of the re-cut film, just the precedent of this can go many directions. As always, I think the goal becomes pausing and looking at you are arguing about or for. Ask if it’s worth it and to what degree, because if some new version of a maligned movie is all you have to sustain your life for hills to die on, you’re the epitome of dwelling in inconsequential first world problems. 

LESSON #2: CHOICES HAVE TO BE MADE— The longer these quarantines and sheltering orders go, the more release choices need to be made. It’s a split between the big stuff and the little guys. We’ve seen a massive amount of rescheduling at the blockbuster level because the studios know their best chance at making the most money (or even their gaudy budgets back) is with theater dollars. VOD rentals at $20 a pop is not enough. What once looked “too big to fail” now cannot survive, no matter how hard Christopher Nolan’s Tenet wants to be the savior. We citizens might not be able to go out and get a haircut, but a proverbial one might be forced in the coming months. The smaller fare of lesser spectacle can find life and some money going to streaming options. They are looking at their prospects and settling smartly. The Lovebirds just did this week following Trolls: World Tour and Onward. Unless Keanu Reeves is shooting people, the third Bill & Ted movie wasn’t going to break any banks and likely neither was Tom Hanks with Greyhound. What looks like disappointing endings for larger efforts still counts as coups for the outlets that get these titles. Apple+ has to be doing backflips to win the bidding war for a Tom Hanks vehicle. 

LESSON #3: MEASURES OF SUCCESS CHANGE OVER TIME— I was one of those keenly interested movie fans that enjoyed hitting up Box Office Mojo on Saturday afternoons and Monday mornings to see the box office estimates and actuals (and, of course, loving on inflation-adjusted records). Without steady business and streaming becoming the cinematic exercise model of necessity at the moment, success is getting measured a little differently with “digital records.” Netflix reports 90 million households grabbing onto Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction. Imagine if each household paid $20 or even just $10 to see it. There’s money to be made with the right move and the right price point, even if that price point is slice of subscription fees. Going back to that idea of haircuts from Lesson #2, Trolls: World Tour made nearly $100 million in its first month of rental availability. While it’s not an incredible windfall, it’s proof there still is a paying audience. If $100 million becomes the new high watermark, watch budgets get scaled down where profit margins get closer and more palatable for the accounting departments.

LESSON #4: LAZY PEOPLE GONNA LAZY— How lazy do you have to be during this current stretch of social life to NOT use your Netflix subscription? Who has that kind of disposable income nowadays? Apparently, there are enough inactive Netflix subscribers from their 183 million total that the streaming giant is going to start closing those silent accounts. What I find almost even more surprising is that a bottomline-chasing company such as Netflix hellbent on user statistics is publicly willing to voluntarily reduce their membership numbers and stop taking their blind money. That’s astonishing. That’s like asking a Twitter account puffed up on paid bots to poke its own influencer balloon. Somewhere Richard Roeper is throwing his arms in the air.

LESSON #5: AWARDS CAN WAIT— As a “Meme Monday” pusher on my own Every Movie Has a Lesson Facebook page, I’ve enjoyed the jokes that have hit social media over the last two months that if the 2020 movie calendar ended today the parade of semi-crappy film releases from January to March would all stand high as frontrunners for the 93rd Academy Awards. If that’s the only way someone like Elisabeth Moss is going to win an Oscar, let’s start the campaign now (see Lesson #1, maybe we can start #VisibibleforInvisible). Like this lesson title, the pageantry can wait for a full competition. I’m glad to hear the 2021 Oscars are considering postponement. Like everything else right now, it’s the right thing to do. I’ve said it this whole time and will keep saying it: “Absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” That will be the case with red carpet spectacles too.

LESSON #6: BILL HADER HAS VERY GOOD TASTE— If all you know of actor Bill Hader are the silly voice, impressions, skits, and his dorky Everyman TV/movie roles, you will be impressed by his taste in movies. In the recommendation slot of “What We Learned This Week,” I stumbled across Bill’s September 2019 list from a Collider interview of over 200 must-see films. The man has a great eye and I love his picks. Luckily, a few Letterboxd users have made this list convenient for your next checklist.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#133)