There have been a good number of war movies in the past few years from WWI and WWII, such as 1917, Dunkirk, Midway, and now comes Greyhound. This new movie focuses upon the convoy of allied ships that crossed the Atlantic in early 1942 after the USA entered the war, bringing troops and supplies. The convoys only had air coverage from the USA to England for the start and end of the crossing because planes did not have the ability to provide air cover for the entire voyage. In the middle, the convoys were left alone in what was termed the “black pit” of the crossing. Here is a good article about the mid-Atlantic gap on Wikipedia that explains the history. You might find this article about the movie on War History Online a good read too with more background.
Greyhound is the lead ship of the convoy, who watches for German U-boats (multiple submarines they called the German “Wolf-Packs”) and protects other ships. The movie focuses on one crossing. Tom Hanks plays Captian Krause, who commands the USS Keeling. As usual, Hanks does a good job of portraying the captain of the Greyhound, expounding command after command to those on the bridge. He has more dialog than anyone. His character is a religious man who prays before the convoy leaves, prays before meals, and prays at the end of the voyage. As he buries three of his crew members at sea who perish along the way, you can see that he looks at people as souls, including Germans who perish. Regardless of the religious tones, it’s where the captain draws his strength. I suppose most men in the war back then did so as well.
As the convoy sails across the Atlantic, be prepared to get seasick from the cinematography. Since I only watched this on my 32-inch screen television on Apple TV (where you can see the movie exclusively), I imagine my stomach would have soured more had I watched it on the big screen. The soundtrack does a good job of keeping you engrossed and nail-biting.
The movie is fast-paced with no rest for the captain or the audience. This is not a character-driven movie or an in-depth analysis of the crew members. It’s non-stop torpedos, attempts to save ships being sunk, flying bullets, blasting battery cannons, and depth-charges blowing up U-boats. The seas are rough, the air is freezing cold, and the nights are dark and frightening.
Even with all the technology we have today, the young men listening to sonar, reading radar screens, sending messages via morse code by ship lights, and doing complicated conversions on charts, is enough to make me feel pretty stupid when it comes to the navigation of a warship. Then there are the commands of rudders, fore, aft, and directional numbers for what course to steer the ship. Then let’s make sure that the guy who reads the radar, conveys it clearly to the person on the bridge, who then repeats it to the captain repeats it right. No sneezing allowed. Apparently, the movie was shot on a decommissioned WW2 destroyer, the USS Kidd.
Was it the best WW2 movie I’ve ever seen? No, but it’s worth the watch to remind you what men on the high seas went through to win the war. The movie is based off a book, “The Good Shepherd” written by C.S. Forester in 1955.
The end of the movie credit states that 3,500 ships sunk in the Atlantic during WW2 and more than 72,000 lives (or souls as the captain termed them) perished. Each time I watch a movie about WW2 (or even WW1 for that matter), I cannot hold back the tears. Since my father served in WW2 fighting in the South Pacific and thankfully came back alive, these stories resonate. They are also reminders for us as a civilization not to forget the sacrifice of others. When I see the young men who bravely fought and lost their lives to defeat Hitler and the Japanese, I cannot help but admire the bravery of the youth of generations past. I often wonder what they would think of the youth of this generation. Let’s not go there right now.
Also, another caveat. No doubt there may be some backlash about the cooks on the ship being black and the entire crew being white. It may bother you, but it just reflects history.
If you can, check it out on Apple TV.