Film, History Class, Uncategorized, World War 2, Writer's Life

Crossing the Atlantic With the Movie GREYHOUND

With busy schedules and finding babysitters, getting out to the movies in a normal year is tricky enough. The last year added its own complications, so I’m really quite pleased that I was able to see the movie Greyhound only a bit over a year past its release.

Set in 1942, Greyhound deals with the struggle of Allied vessels to traverse the Atlantic ocean while being hunted by German U-boat “wolf packs.” Churchill christened this ongoing struggle the “Battle of the Atlantic” and wrote in his memoirs:

The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril. Invasion, I thought, even before the air battle, would fail…But now our life-line, even across the broad oceans and especially in the entrances to the island, was endangered.”

From Winston Churchill’s Their Finest Hour, Book 2, page 598

Without the fuel, foodstuffs, weapons, and troops that were sent across the Atlantic, the Allies could not have been successful. It was a dangerous journey—according to the Imperial War Museum, after the U.S. entered the war U-boats sank nearly 500 unescorted ships off the East coast.

Rather than going it alone, ships were grouped into convoys with armed escorts for protection. Eventually, along with improved intelligence and weapons, the convoy system reduced shipping losses and after 1943 the Atlantic crossing became less perilous.

In Greyhound, Tom Hanks plays Captain Krausse, commander of the destroyer (you guessed it) Greyhound. It’s his first Atlantic crossing, and he’s the leader of the destroyers screening a convoy. As the ships pass into the “Black Pit”—the center of the Atlantic, out of range from all Allied air cover—they encounter a U-boat wolf pack. Krausse must work through cold and exhaustion to outwit the U-boats and protect the convoy.

I loved this film.

Now, full disclosure: I had no real expectations going into it, and I had not done extensive research into the Battle of the Atlantic ahead of time. IMDb does list some historical “goofs”—for instance, while some of the filming was done in the USS Kidd, a real WWII destroyer, (pictured above) the Kidd is a Fletcher class destroyer, which wouldn’t have been available in February of 1942. Also, some of the battle tactics and communication techniques wouldn’t have worked in reality.

However, I loved the way Greyhound told its story. Rather than inserting artificial drama to try to invest viewers in the characters and plot, the film relied on the real drama—the life and death struggle the sailors were experiencing. It felt more like stepping aboard ship and experiencing the voyage than watching actors play it out, and it really worked for me. The score fit well with the action, the tension was high (I may have made my husband lose circulation in his hand once or twice) the visuals were great, and the emotional beats hit home. (Yes, I did get teary-eyed.) While I sometimes find it distracting having a well-known face on the screen in historical films, Hanks did an excellent job playing the devout Krausse. I honestly can’t think of anything about the film that I didn’t like. It probably helps that I cannot identify ships by shape, so any of those anachronisms didn’t jar me out of the story.

Of course, the understated drama of the film might not appeal to everyone—one of my friends didn’t care for it, saying it felt too much like a documentary. As to origins of the story, Greyhound was based off of the 1955 novel, “The Good Shepherd” by C.S. Forester, which I may have to pick up.

Unfortunately, the film is only available on Apple TV at this time. I’m hoping it makes it to DVD, and if it does it will have to find a place on my shelf.

Below is the official preview. Watching it after having seen the movie, I had to chuckle at the way they moved lines and images around for dramatic effect—but that’s all I’ll say so that I don’t give out spoilers.

Have any of you seen the film? What did you think?

If you’d like more information on The Battle of the Atlantic, here are a couple of sites to check out:

-U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, “Battle of the Atlantic: An Overview”

-BBC History: “The Battle of the Atlantic: The U-Boat Peril”

The Imperial War Museum’s page with images about the convoy system is also worth a look.

13 thoughts on “Crossing the Atlantic With the Movie GREYHOUND”

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, too! I really do need to get the book…but I really need to NOT start reading any new fiction at the beginning of the school year! Too much else to do, and once I start a book, it’s so hard to stop 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I still haven’t seen this for the simple reason of it being on AppleTV. But I want to! And you sure wet my appetite! It looked good from the preview, I just hope it makes its way to something I can watch soon.
    I know one of the reasons shipping losses jumped up after the US entry into the War was a shortage of escorts. There was a whole argument over if it made sense to convoy ships with no escort at all! (Mathematically it makes sense, but try convincing ship captains to group together with no protection). But it took time to get protection for every crossing, all the way across. Obviously all sorts of drama to be had; from deciding who gets protected and when, to the individual ships going into harm’s way.
    It is great to get a positive review from someone who knows the time like you do, so now I’m excited again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was not easy to find a chance to see it! I really hope it makes it to DVD soon. I can’t find any updates on plans to release it. 😦
      I hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to check it out. Sounds like there were definitely some boat substitutions, but I thought they just did a great job of showing the scale of the endeavor- all of those ships out on that vast, cold ocean…! It was intense.

      Thanks for adding the history notes- fascinating stuff! One of the FB WWII club authors, John R. McKay just ran a sale on his book “The Worst Journey in the World” about the Arctic convoys, and I snagged it- this definitely got me interested in learning more about this part of the war. I’ll have to find some moments between correcting papers as the school year begins…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this review! I don’t think this would’ve been on my radar otherwise, but it is now. Also thanks for the mention of The Imperial War Museum, one of my most vivid memories (along with the original Tate with its Rodin) of my first trip to London decades ago; art museums, palaces, parks, cathedrals, and afternoon teas were easy tourist destinations for my young self, but the War Museum has stuck with me, I suppose as a reminder for staying the course of … doing our level best to keep the peace, and with gratitude to brave generations before mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome- I hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to see it!
      The Imperial War Museum’s online archives are really tremendous- I’ve probably spent more hours than I should there, though I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting in person. It’s certainly on my ‘hopefully someday’ list for travel! The reminders of what has been are so important as we look toward the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve not heard of this movie, though Tom Hanks is a talented and sympathetic performer and I’d like to see it. The Battle of the Atlantic is a big part of Britain’s war story. Churchill’s analysis is pretty much bang on target. It may be a little old-fashioned, but I can highly recommend ‘The Cruel Sea’ by Nicholas Monsarrat, if you can get hold of it. As you say, the IWM is astonishing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I might have missed this one entirely if it weren’t for a friend who knows my interest in the era, has Apple TV, and kept inviting us over to watch it! I’m glad we finally made it happen- Hanks really did a great job, in my opinion.
      Thanks for the recommendation! Hmm, It doesn’t look like our library has it, but I’ll add it to my TBR list !

      Liked by 1 person

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