A rare collection of films elicit a sense of American patriotism capable of providing at least a brief respite from the indefinite turmoil in which our nation seems mired.
Few actors have been more central to that than Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, whose filmography of “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apollo 13,” “Forrest Gump,” “Sully,” “Captain Phillips,” “Bridge of Spies,” and so on leaves as lasting an impression of the American ideal of the everyman hero as any other in Hollywood.
With the recently released World War II thriller “Greyhound,” Hanks once again generates a story that captures the American myth and, at least for a little while longer, postpones our descent into a territory more reminiscent of “Idiocracy.”
At the helm of the story — based on the C.S. Forester novel “The Good Shepherd” and inspired by true events — is Capt. Ernest Kraus (Hanks), an inexperienced commander assigned the perilous task of leading a 1942 trans-Atlantic escort of a 37-ship convoy.
For approximately two days of their seemingly eternal journey to Liverpool, Krause and the convoy are left without without air support. Range limitations of American and British aircraft at the time yielded a vulnerable expanse of water that teemed with swarms of unseen Kriegsmarine Nazi U-boats, which, to that point, had sent many a man and supply destined for the war effort in Britain to the ocean floor.
It is in that unpredictable stretch of ocean known ominously as the “Black Pit” that Kraus, at the helm of the fictional USS Keeling (codenamed Greyhound), is plunged into the Battle of the Atlantic, where both his inexperience and faith are tested through one crisis after another.
Using a script penned by Hanks, director Aaron Schneider (“Get Low”) wastes little of the less-than-90 minutes of screen time to immerse viewers into a film that quickly takes on the role of an experience rather than a story concerned with character development.
The cruel, edge-of-your-seat uncertainties of the ocean’s depths, not to mention a Nazi commander who lobs sinister taunts over interrupted radio communications, set a chilling scene that allows Hanks to shine once more as an ordinary man who rises to a daunting task and accomplishes the extraordinary.