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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Aaron Schneider
scr Tom Hanks
prd Gary Goetzman
with Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, Elisabeth Shue, Matthew Helm, Josh Wiggins, Tom Brittney, Michael Benz, Craig Tate, Will Pullen, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Karl Glusman
release US/UK 10.Jul.20
20/US Apple 1h31
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Based on the novel The Good Shepherd, this stately WWII thriller spins a gripping story that feels like it could be true. By maintaining a specific point of view, the set pieces are thrilling, directed doc-style to add urgency. On the other hand, the enemy remains unseen, an oddly old-fashioned approach that leaves the story feeling rather unambitious. So the ending is rousingly realistic rather than something artificially satisfying.
In 1942, convoys of Allied ships carrying supplies to Europe are vulnerable to packs of Nazi U-boats. On this day, 37 ships are being led by Captain Krause (Hanks) on the warship Greyhound, his first command. It's not easy to spot the U-boats in rough seas, so the crew must react quickly, with barely a moment to regroup between the relentless assaults. Krause needs to make 20 decisions instantly, while dodging torpedoes and manoeuvring his ship into attack positions. And when they sink an enemy sub, he refuses to celebrate 50 dead German souls.
The film is set entirely at sea, apart from brief soft-focus flashbacks that give Krause some back-story with his long-suffering wife (Shue). Meanwhile on the choppy black ocean under grey skies, there's a nonstop series of encounters that involve sonar pings, evasive manoeuvres and counterstrikes. Essentially, this places the audience right on the bridge throughout the perilous voyage, with nonstop activity that demands a reaction. It's fascinating to watch the individual crew roles work so tightly together in the face of such an insidious threat.
Performances are earthy and of course darkly serious, which is earned by the gravity of the situation. Hanks expertly anchors the film solidly, nicely underplaying the earnest authenticity while letting the audience see Krause's complex mental gyrations. As he pushes himself through several days without food or sleep, his mental fortitude comes through vividly. It's essentially a one-man show, although there are some side roles that stand out, including Graham's unflappable lieutenant and Morgan's persistent chef.
The film looks terrific, with its essentially monochrome setting coloured cleverly by glowing lights, flashes of gunfire, the foam trails of torpedoes and fiery explosions. And the taunting Nazi radio transmissions add an undercurrent of horror. The effects work is seamless, which helps bring the situation to vivid life, even if the overuse of wide shots leaves some action rather unclear. This is a powerful depiction of a harrowing situation that wasn't uncommon during the war. And the film's strength is in the way it gives the audience what feels like a firsthand experience.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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