Tom Hanks should be declared a national treasure.
He’s the Jimmy Stewart of our generation, an incredibly talented actor with a long string of successful, unforgettable movies dating all the way back to Splash and Bachelor Party in 1984.
He’s that rare Hollywood talent who seems to be focused and grounded, a happily married family man with a love of his craft whose only obsessive/compulsive weakness might be his hobby of collecting of vintage typewriters.
So what’s not to love?
Well, maybe his latest release Greyhound, being released on Apple TV+.
It is based on actual events described in the novel “The Good Shepherd” by C. S. Forester.
The screenplay is by Tom Hanks who also stars as the main character, Captain Krause.
Tom Hanks' other screen writing credits include That Thing You Do (which he also directed in 1996) as well as episodes of TV mini-series projects like From the Earth to the Moon and Band of Brothers.
The story is about the early days of WWII and the plight of the ships carrying troops and supplies to fight the way in Europe.
In the open seas of the North Atlantic, they were easy targets of the German U-boats that sank them with regularity.
At sea, with no air cover, their only protection was provided by naval destroyers like the Greyhound, capable of providing firepower and depth charges.
In Greyhound, the focus is on characters, and Captain Krause in particular.
It is his first Atlantic crossing, one that becomes a baptism of fire. Self-deprived of sleep and food, he is pushed to the limits, trying to out-fox and destroy the deadly German subs.
All this is great story material, as evidenced in other Hollywood movies about submarine warfare over the years. I’m thinking of movies like Run Silent Run Deep (1958), Das Boot (1981), U-571 (2000) just to name a few.
Creatively, the problem faced in all these movies is the one of staging and confinement in close quarters, whether in submarines or ships with a small group of men.
In Greyhound, much of the action happens on the bridge of the ship where we eavesdrop on the suspenseful drama of locating approaching U-boats on glowing radar screens that were just coming into existence.
There is a lot of “Navy speak.” A wealth of naval jargon.
While it adds to the authenticity of the story, it sometimes feels like dramatic filler meant to substitute for the battle sequences we came to see.
The trailers for Greyhound were powerful, as movie trailers should be.
I was sold after seeing the very first one, knowing of course that trailers are often made up of the best scenes from the movie they are advertising.
Still, this one looked pretty exciting. And, it starred Tom Hanks.
Unfortunately, the first 20 minutes or so of Greyhound looked a little too digitized --the digitized ships, the digitized ocean—all looked a bit artificial for a movie starring Tom Hanks. Not horrible, but not great.
In terms of production quality, it clearly wasn’t Saving Private Ryan (1998) or anything approaching that.
And that might be due to the fact that Greyhound is a release from Apple TV, a relative start-up movie company in the mix of new, non-traditional movie studios.
We’ve seen the push by Netflix to step up movie production with the release of modestly-budgeted films that found the captive attention of new viewers during the forced confinement brought about by the Corona Virus pandemic.
Apple TV is a relative newcomer launching early success with its kick-off series The Morning Show (starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon).
Here, it is trying to expand into the action-adventure genre with mixed success.
In the plus column it has some solid story material and one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.
In the negative column, is the dialog heavy script and special effects that sometimes fall short of the mark.
That’s not to say that there aren’t sequences in this movie that are worth watching.
Some of the naval battle sequences toward the end of the film are adrenaline-charged, with depth charges exploding and glowing tracer shells ripping through the icy cold air of the North Atlantic sea.
Eventually, the drama and excitement ramp up in the movie’s climax. You just have to be patient.
Greyhound certainly won’t make the list of Tom Hanks’ top 10 movies. There are so many movies ahead of it.
But it won’t be counted among his missteps either.
I’m thinking of movies like Joe Versus the Volcano(1990).
Some script doctoring and special effects tweaks might have made Greyhound a better film.
That said, it’s still a Tom Hanks movie and that makes it worth seeing.
Hanks just celebrated his 64th birthday on July 9th.
Happy Birthday, Tom.
May you have a long, happy life. And continued success in your stellar career.
We are blessed to have you.
I’ll keep my eye out for any cool vintage typewriters I happen to stumble upon.
Greyhound is available on Apple TV+