Greyhound: A Review

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13: 8

I watched the film twice this weekend.  I viewed it twice because of its quality and because the battle scenes were intricate, as naval war tends to be, and a second viewing was needed to clarify a few points for me.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is fully in force.

Based upon the late CS Forester’s (he of Horatio Hornblower fame) 1955 novel The Good Shepherd, the film tells the story of a US Destroyer, the USS Keeling, and its fight to escort a convoy across the Atlantic in 1942. A casualty of no theater release due to the Black Sniffles, it is being shown exclusively on Apple TV.

Tom Hanks portrays Commander Ernest Krause, the captain of the USS Keeling.  He is on his first crossing  of the Atlantic on convoy duty.  A quiet, religious man, we see him praying by his bunk and we view a quotation of Hebrews 13: 8 tucked into his mirror.  He is in charge of protecting convoy HX-25, consisting of thirty-seven allied ships.  In addition to the Keeling, the convoy is also protected by the British destroyer HMS James, the Polish destroyer OPR Viktor and a Canadian corvette HCMS Dodge.  The call sign for the Keeling is Greyhound, for  James Harry, for Viktor Eagle and for Dodge Dicky.  Krause is in overall commander of the escort vessels.

We join the convoy as its air coverage ends as they enter the Black Pit, the point where air coverage ended in the mid-Atlantic.  It will take them two days before they regain air coverage from the British Isles. Until they regain air coverage, the convoy will be at maximum vulnerability from U-Boat wolf pack attack.  Ultimately this problem will be solved during the War by the increasing range of Allied planes, and by escort carriers being produced in such numbers that they could serve as convoy escorts.  In early 1942 these remedies were only a hope for the future and not a present reality.

The film does a good job of depicting a north Atlantic crossing in the middle of winter, not for the faint of heart at that time even in peacetime.  The film accurately depicts a U-Boat wolf pack attack on a convoy, as the escort vessels play a desperate game of blind’s man buff against the U-boats.  The film focuses strictly upon the fight, human interest fluff about the men involved is kept at a bare minimum, which I found refreshing.  The only false note is radio taunts by the wolf pack commander, promising that the men in the convoy soon would be dead.  With radio directions finders, no German commander would have been suicidal enough to make such broadcasts, and strict radio usage was the order of the day among the U-Boats, manned by the best men in the German Navy.

The details of what happens to the convoy I will leave to future viewers of the film.  It is the best war picture I have seen since Hacksaw Ridge in 2016.

 

Published in: on August 13, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Greyhound: A Review  
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