May 30, 2021

The Greyhound Review

Greyhound is a movie I really wanted to see in theaters, but didn't get a chance to. Apple picked it up for their streaming service, which really annoyed me, because if it had done well in theaters, it might have inspired some immitators.

On the whole, I liked the movie. This was clearly done by someone who had a better appreciation for the atmosphere of the actions they were portraying than did, say, the people behind Midway, and it stays reasonably true to the book. But I watched it at my computer instead of on the big screen, and that led to some problems.

The biggest was that they clearly used the model of the USS Kidd, a Fletcher preserved in Baton Rouge, where they did a lot of filming. But the movie is set in February 1942, and the first unit of that type didn't commission until June. That wouldn't be the end of the world, but there's a lot of equipment (the Mk 12/22 radar and quad 40mms) that wasn't developed or fitted until much later in the war. There's also some internal stuff that didn't exist at the time, such as the CIC and PPI for the radar. At least the sonar had an A-scope. The whole thing felt a bit off for me, although most people wouldn't notice.

But that aside, it worked about as well as it could have. I don't know how it would have worked for someone who hadn't read The Good Shepard, but we saw as much of Krause the conflicted man as you could reasonably get in a very different medium, along with a decent portrayal of the tension of fighting submarines. My only issue with the last part was the Germans tapping into the TBS (as far as I know, that never actually happened) but I did really like the response of calmly switching channels. On the whole, it worked, but this probably wasn't the best story to make a movie out of, because of how much the book was concerned with Krause as a character, which doesn't make the transition to the screen that well. Still worth a watch if you get a chance, although I really wish I could say to go see it in theaters.

Thinking it over later, I realized I'd missed one of the things that they'd gotten very right, which was that it didn't feel off at all. Most of the time, portrayal of military life is at least a little bit off because it's hard to accurately show the flavor of a military organization if you're not really familiar with it. Hanks (who wrote the screenplay) is familiar enough to pull it off so well that I didn't even notice. So that's a major mark in the movie's favor.


  1. May 30, 2021Matt B said...

    Ahhhhh I was waiting for this review! Glad that you enjoyed it as I did. I didn't know enough to notice the small errors you mentioned, but it seemed to me the big stuff was mostly correct when I watched it.

    I did not realize it was based on a book, so I will have to pick that up. Regardless, it was an engrossing movie for me. Covering in detail how orders are handled and how non-combat crew (cooks, etc) would help out in combat situations (carrying ammo) really grabbed me.

    I've watched it 6 times since it came out (including back to back days when it was first released), to show how much I loved it.

  2. May 30, 2021Chris Bradshaw said...

    minor correction: imitators, not immitators.

    I too enjoyed the film, Hanks always does well as a mid-20th century captain. I suppose they could have adapted the U-66's story, which managed to somehow be more crazy, with ramming and a boarding action featuring Krauts beaten to death with coffee mugs.

  3. May 30, 2021AlanL said...

    My only issue with the last part was the Germans tapping into the TBS (as far as I know, that never actually happened)

    It did "actually happen" in the book, whether or not it did in real life.

  4. May 30, 2021Neal said...

    I stand in a minority of one here (ok, maybe somewhere on earth there is another person)and get serious pushback on this point, but I struggled to watch this as I burned out on Hanks years ago. No personal animus mind you and he is a top-flight chap, but I really get stuck on a nearly 64 year-old man playing a role of someone who, in the reality of 1942, would have not been north of forty. I don't need documentary level precision for a film that is entertainment, but an English filmmaker would have rung up RADA and hat the perfect fit within minutes--with an accurate American accent to boot.

    I think what probably is the real burr in the saddle for me is that I listened to Dan Carlin interview Hanks about this movie and the background was so anodyne as to be "throw dishes at the wall" frustrating. No mention of The Cruel Sea which is arguably the standard.

    Yes, I know the object of the interview was not to make literary lists by judging one against the other, but for anyone interested in the real history of the subject certainly should be treated to a decent discussion of the excellent corpus of writing and films that are extant. Yes, Hanks had a movie to pitch, but still this was Carlin's audience so individuals who are looking for a least a little meat...

    I'm glad that Hanks considers works like these homages, but he needs to pass the baton for the roles to younger actors. Yes, this was better than that extremely low bar of Midway, but I wish he would have spent his executive producer funds on not thinking he should play the lead.

    ...and yes, if it sounds like I am an old crank, I stand guilty as charged when it comes to this topic. I recently wrote about Hanks overexposure in all this captain of the spaceship, cargo ship, airliner, etc.

    In the meantime, I can only hope that the British will now take up the challenge and, as sacrilegious as it is and sounds, put out the Cruel Sea again...just don't use the Dunkirk crew.

  5. May 30, 2021Mike Kozlowski said...

    ...I actually liked it very, very much - it's clear they went to a lot of effort to get things right, and I can forgive them the use of KIDD. What I would still like to see is a similar story aboard one of the old Four Stackers - my wife's granddad served as a gunner aboard BARNEY (DD-149), and I gather that was even more claustrophobic than one of the FLETCHERs.


  6. May 31, 2021bean said...


    If it did, I forgot about it. Perils of reading the book in time for the original release date.

    Beyond that, I certainly didn't dislike the movie. It just didn't grab me, and I do think that not annoying me is high praise, even if it's the sort of thing I don't notice.

  7. June 02, 2021cassander said...

    What I like best about the movie is that Krause isn't a great captain. He's not terrible, but he makes lots of mistakes and pushes himself too hard. It's rare in media to get good portrayals of mediocre people, normally everyone is either great or terrible. It's easy to make characters do egregiously dumb things, it's a lot harder to show the subtler (and far more common) ways of fucking up like bad instincts, inexperience, and poor reasoning.

  8. June 02, 2021Neal said...


    Although I obviously disagree with the casting of Hanks, I really like your observation of the rarity of good portrayals of the average Joe or Jane as he/she tackles the task. That's where the best stories lie--with the mistakes, bad instincts, etc., but also figuring it out somehow.

    It's much harder to write, act, and direct to this level of subtlety of neither sinner nor saint, neither bumbling incompetent nor superhero and I agree that this is a strong, eve strongest, point in the movie.

  9. June 05, 2021Dave said...

    @Bean thanks for this! Where does this rank among all-time not-terrible naval films now? Most of them are so bad...

    Given how well some of the attention to historical detail was, I'm wondering how much of the anachronism was deliberate, of the "people just wouldn't find the truth realistic enough" variety. In particular, the CIC is a bit of a trope of military filmmaking now, and it may have been harder to portray the still-evolving early stages of doctrine believably.

    I liked Hanks in this role (even though he's too much of an oldster), but I don't think it could have been made without him appearing because he basically rammed the film through production by force of will and accumulated credibility. Studios were not interested in funding or making a moderately realistic naval film. There aren't many A-list action types who could play someone competent but not great like this, either.

    With the age thing, I think that had to be a bit exaggerated to stand out visually. It's easier to communicate in the text that Krause is sort of just barely advancing fast enough to keep his job, in a very average and boring career path thrust into the fight unexpectedly, mediated through the intricacies of the naval promotion system, but just having him be really old gets at most of that more simply.

    Nonetheless, who does deserve to play a moderately competent destroyer captain in his place? Nominations below!

  10. June 06, 2021Neal said...

    @Dave I handed this question to SWMBO as it is her contention that the role you are describing is actually not an easy one if it is to be done well--the actor, as you described, has to thread the needle between being an actor with chops yet also believable as being a gent who was plugging along in a career and now faces real leadership and competence challenges.

    She suggested the Englishman Tom Hardy as one who could have pulled this off. Damien Lewis in Band of Brothers proved the accent is no barrier. He is in the perfect age cohort as well.

    She thinks Bradley Cooper, while of the right age, is a bit too far above the "Everyman" and thus would strain credulity.

    Other recommendations in the age group include James Franco, Benedict Cumberbatch (based not on Sherlock but rather his brilliant performance in the screen adaptation of Ford Maddox Ford's Parade's End), Channing Tatum, Ian Somerhalder, and her admitted eye-candy Tom Hiddleston with the admission that it violates the "Everyman" stipulation. Martin Freeman is that Everyman however.

    We also agree that Christian Bale would have done something good with the role. Exactly what that is we cannot even guess other than one would no doubt be left with the impression that he was the reincarnation of someone who actually had been out on the Atlantic with the convoys.

    Points to Hanks for getting this out, but why didn't he pass the baton to a younger actor?

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