(director: Aaron Schneider; screenwriters: Tom Hanks/novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester; cinematographer: Shelly Johnson; editors: Sidney Wolinsky, Mark Czyzewski; music: Blake Neely; cast: Tom Hanks (Captain Krause), Elisabeth Shue (Evelyn), Stephen Graham (Charlie Cole), Matt Helm (Lt. Nystrom), Craig Tate (Pitts), Rob Morgan (Cleveland), Karl Glusman (Eppstein), Jeffrey Burkes (Shannon), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Officer Lopez), Josh Wiggins (Talker #1), Tom Brittney (Lt. Watson), William Pullen (Talker #3), Devin Druid (Wallace), Travis Quentin (Ipsen), Thomas Kretschmann (voices – Grey Wolf), Chet Hanks (Bushnell), Jimi Stanton (Lt. Harbutt); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Gary Goetzman; Apple TV +; 2020)
“The star, Tom Hanks, wrote the screenplay, and is the best thing about the film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”), the former cinematographer, directs this bland but serviceable patriotic WWII war drama about a U.S. destroyer in the North Atlantic under attack by the Nazis in the Battle of the Atlantic.
The star, Tom Hanks, wrote the screenplay, and is the best thing about the film. Though it’s one of the weakest films of Tom Hanks’ career, it’s still watchable. It’s based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester. Unfortunately it relies too much on CGI for its battle scenes to get over.
It’s set in February of 1942.
The devoutly religious and thoughtful Captain Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) has just been promoted to take command of the Fletcher-class destroyer code-named Greyhound. The destroyer is leader of three other light warships assigned to protect a convoy of 37 merchant vessels carrying troops and much needed supplies across the North Atlantic to England. When close to the shore, the convoy can be protected from the air. But in the middle of the ocean, known as the “Black Pit,” the ships are on their own and subject to attacks by the German U-boats.
The cat-and-mouse games between the ruthless, experienced and cunning leader of the Nazi U-boats, a vengeful commander (as voiced over the radio by Grey Wolf (Thomas Kretschmann)), and his inexperienced American foe, Captain Krause, keep the viewer awake following the tense situation. But there’s hardly any character development–just a lot of naval strategy tossed around and for a hissing moment Grey Wolf voicing over the radio this delicious sound bite “Ve hear the screams of your comrades as zey die! You vill die today!”.
Since the film was streamed during the angry protest marches over racial injustice and the BLM movement fueling the protests has captivated American audiences, the bit about two black galley stewards (Rob Morgan & Craig Tate) who serve the captain his meals, takes an embarrassing tone when the captain calls one by the other’s name. It’s not meant as a racial slur, but an honest mistake from the pressured captain. Yet it leaves you wondering how the BLM crowd, some of them zealots in their defense of blacks, would take it.
Elizabeth Shue has a cameo as the captain’s sweetheart of a wife, but has little to do in this unnecessary role that’s just thrown her way to have a pretty woman in the film. The destroyer’s navigator, Charlie Cole (Stephen Graham), has affection for the skipper, but though obedient wonders if his leader has what it takes to get them through this mission.
If you can be satisfied with such an outdated, squarish, old fashioned war drama, one competently made and with a robust Hanks in top form, you’re the perfect viewer.
REVIEWED ON 7/27/2020 GRADE: B-