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Tom Hanks Meets His Match

Tom Hanks has always been the perfect movie American mid-level military manager. Smart, dedicated, strong but not overbearing or willful. He is a mannerly soldier and, if not a father figure, at least a good uncle model.

He now has found his perfect leading lady to complement that personality. She is powerful, elegant, heroic, and sleek. And deadly.

She is a World War II destroyer. Greyhound, the fiction-based-on-real-events movie about their relationship, is big. How big?

Apple's spokesfolks have told Deadline analysts that Greyhound has become the largest opening-weekend release ever for Apple TV and turned in a viewing audience commensurate with a summer theatrical box office hit. That's what it was built to be.

Apple subscriptions leaped 30 percent this month, apparently to see just this one movie.

Until the arrival of Greyhound, the World War II naval thriller that Hanks wrote based on C.S. Forester's novel The Good Shepherd, neither he nor anyone else had managed to translate an actual sea battle into a raw, emotional reality.

There have been big sweeping cinematic encounters, but the battles never seemed personal. The only exception was Russell Crowe's 2003 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Greyhound scales the top of the mast on that list. Its psychological hand-to-hand combat does not require either side to see the other face-to-face. But it is personal.

You can appreciate how and why sailors care about their ships. They kept each other alive.

Greyhound was made by Sony for $50 million but the pandemic has jilted every theatrical release date, so Sony sold it to Apple TV for $70 million for Apple's streaming service. It might be more than a year before an actual theatrical release.

This is good and bad.

It's good because you will see a CGI-laced movie so close to reality that you feel saltwater splash onto your face. Winter at night in the North Atlantic is chilling in every way, though the movie was made without any water.

It's bad because this is a movie that screams to be displayed on a very large screen. Anything less is like the Charlton Heston Ben Hur chariot race on an iPhone screen.

This is a big-league action movie.

But it's slyly unique in other ways, too.

No movie involving submarines and destroyers hunting each other has ever been as real as this, for reasons that do not seem obvious until you rethink the details of which there are a thousand.

By comparison, the best movie of its genre was The Enemy Below, the 1957 Robert Mitchum/Curd J├╝rgens vehicle. Except for the German-focused Das Boot, no example of the genre has even come close to such realism, except for now.

Hanks' acting, Aaron Schneider's quick-cut, high-movement direction and editors Mark Czyzewski and Sidney Wolinsky achieve it flawlessly.

By design, Hanks and the ship dominate every scene.

But here's what previous war movies have never shown, but Greyhound does.

The bridge of a wartime destroyer under fire is a taught, precisely staged crucible that relies on discipline and choreography. Knife's-edge drama and precise language all meld inside one tiny stage, like Hamilton.

Forrester's novel got the linguistic psychology of combat command so accurately that his book was used as a text for many years at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Everyone moves inside a tight bridge; everyone's eyes are on the horizon; orders are called and repeated by the recipient; binoculars swing in unison to catch sightings; it is a ballet.

Speed, course, angle, rudder, turn radius. Always moving and darting. No one curses. No one is rude. There is an enforced courtliness based on discipline.

When Hanks shouts for "flank speed," her 2,500 tons fly at 35 miles an hour.

A destroyer's bridge is not where the captain relaxes because Hanks seldom sits anywhere. He races from open platform both left and right off the main bridge to track prey and avoid being blown up. When Hanks announces calmly "I'll take the conn," the Officer of the Deck responds, "Captain has the conn," and the ship lurches to attention.

In this case, Hanks' rookie Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause leads the destroyer USS Keeling (code-named Greyhound for convoy duty). No one calls him Commander. He is the Captain.

Greyhound portrays a quality that almost no Hollywood military movies try to show: the mannerly, thoughtful, genteel, respectful relationships of teammates whose performance precision keep each other alive.

When the commanders of the other three escorts under Hanks command speak by radio, they often end with "Godspeed." It is not an idle hope.

A destroyer guarding a 37-ship convoy and facing a German Boat wolfpack was a lithe, muscular hunting dog that employed intersecting and diverging angles, speed and luck. The name "Greyhound" fits. As a canine species, greyhounds were bred as hunting dogs to chase hare, foxes, and deer.

Hanks' Krause is allowed only one rookie tactical mistake in his first U-boat pursuit - he misses his attack approach by hard-turning right when he should have gone left. Everyone on the bridge knows he's erred. He does, too.

He doesn't miss again.

The captain of a destroyer at war also is an athlete, a characterization seldom seen in a movie.

Hanks plays the aging but athletic commander perfectly, almost as if he wrote the character for himself which, in fact, he did. He prays on his knees. And seldom sleeps or eats during the five days in "The Black Pit" where the convoy has no air protection.

Except for an opening and closing scene with Elisabeth Shue that shows Hanks has a love interest waiting for his war to end, there are no women in Greyhound except the ship itself.

She holds everyone's attention.

When Hanks needed an actual ship for filming, he used the USS Kidd, one of the very few World War II "Fletcher Class" destroyers in existence. She is a restored museum piece moored in Baton Rouge. She never moved for the movie.

Hanks has developed a refined skill at making war movies. What he learned in Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers is on full display here. He is economical both as an actor and a writer. He is precise.

Hanks never forgets what is most important."The Kidd" is the real love interest in Greyhound. The clarity of that relationship was a sound theatrical decision,

Love? Human romance would only have intruded on 90 minutes of tense and relentless hell.


Recently by David Rutter:

* Kris Bryant's Future Bar Trick.

* Mansplaining To A Millionaire.

* Status Check: Chicago Sports.

* The Week In WTF Redux: Blago Is Back Edition.

* What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* Glenn Beck's Turn In The Volcano.

* Only Science Will Bring Back Sports.

* I Loathe The Lockdown Protestors.

* Reopening Books.

* A Return To Abnormalcy.

* I'm Having A Down Day Emotionally. Here's Why.

* So Long, Jerry.

* A Special "Trump's Bible" Edition Of WTF.

* 5 Things An Angry Old White Man Wants To Say.

* An ANTIFA American Hero.

* The Fonz Lives And Franco Is Dead: News You Can't Use.

* Gone With The Wind: My Lost Cause.

* How To (Pretend To) Negotiate A Labor Deal.

* The Mystery Of Mitch's Missing Motivation.

* Dave's French Foreign Legion Tour Of Chicagoland.

* Remember The '85 Bears? Actually, No You Don't.

* On Boredom.

* Wherever Rod Moore Is, I Hope He's Safe.

* Blackhawk's Life Mattered.

* A Blackhawks Proposal.

* Launching College Football.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.


Posted on July 17, 2020

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