Arts & Leisure

A new era with “Greyhound”?

TOM HANKS stars as a U.S. Navy destroyer captain in “Greyhound.”

By Jim Tortolano

“Greyhound” is not an extraordinary movie, but it may turn out to be an important one.

This World War II drama about the Battle of the Atlantic features Tom Hanks as Navy captain Ernest Krause, commanding an American destroyer. Its significance comes not from its artistic merit but from what it may signal for the future of the motion picture industry.

Since the first “real” films over a hundred years ago, the movie house – the cinema – was a place where we went to see the latest and sometimes greatest tales of love, adventure, drama, mystery and more. There were challenges – the coming of television, the advent of the videocassette recorder among them – but they didn’t represent an existential threat to the business.

You see, we didn’t see this first-run Hollywood movie with its biggest star in a glittery neon palace; we viewed it on our couch, looking at our big screen TV via a streaming service.

This is not entirely new, except that we were screening it at home since all the movie theaters are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As comfortable as today’s movie houses are, there’s something to be said for relaxing in the family room in very casual attire, chattering during the slow spots, tossing treats to the dogs and stopping the show for breaks.

Is this a sign of the “new normal”?  Wouldn’t film companies like to eliminate the middleperson by selling the product directly to the public? If the crisis lasts much longer, will people develop a habit of flipping to Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video that will be difficult to reverse?

Endless difficulties are what “Greyhound” is all about. Convoys of ships traveling from North America to England were vulnerable to attacks by Nazi submarines, termed U-boats. From the very first part of this tale – based on C.S. Forester’s novel “The Good Shepherd” – to almost the very end, the ships escorting the convoy struggle to protect their charges from “wolfpacks” of German attackers.

The movie feels authentic for the most part. The cold seas of the North Atlantic can give you a chill even on your sectional, the cinematography is so well-done (credit to Shelly Johnson). The tension does not let up for more than a minute; there’s a new crisis or battle looming right after the last one.

Hanks is sublime as usual. Elizabeth Shue has a brief appearance as Krause’s love interest. Stephen Graham (you may recognize him from “Band of Brothers”) plays the captain’s second-in-command.

Knowing what we know about Hollywood films we have a pretty good idea of how this one turns out. The screenplay by Hanks hews pretty close to the book, but for one exception. An evil sub commander, sounding like a Prussian vampire, manages to cut into the TBS (talk between ships) radio to issue proclamations of doom and watery death.

Does virtue triumph on this perilous journey? I think you know. What’s unknown is whether this shift from the Regal or AMC to your cul-de-sac or condo will sink the movie-going experience as we have known it.

“Greyhound” is rated PG-13 for wartime violence.

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