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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Greyhound is a World War II drama starring Tom Hanks. It tells the story of a days-long battle between Nazi submarines and a convoy of Allied ships carrying essential arms and supplies across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The action is fierce and frequent, and suspense is high. Torpedoes, machine gun fire, and artillery hit their marks. Ships and U-boats catch fire and explode. The filmmakers have opted to register the loss of life on the faces of the mostly very young men who watch in fear and horror from a distance, rather than via those being injured and killed. One wounded sailor is shown, and three flag-draped bodies are buried at sea. Language includes one use each of "hell," "damn," and "f--k" (after which the speaker immediately apologizes). The film makes a strong statement about the tragedy of war, as well as about integrity, teamwork, compassion, and grace under fire.
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What's the story?
GREYHOUND (the name of the film's ship) is told from the viewpoint of Captain Krause (Tom Hanks, who also wrote the screen adaptation). In his first assignment in charge, Krause is the captain of this U.S. Navy Destroyer, in service as escort to a large convoy of Allied ships carrying supplies and armaments across the Atlantic in early 1942. Based upon C.S. Forster's novel The Good Shepherd, the movie is a fictionalized account of one event in the Battle of the Atlantic, a conflict that began in 1940 and continued through 1943, the longest ongoing battle of WWII. In an area of the Atlantic called "The Black Pit," the convoy is out of range of friendly air cover and must face off with a Nazi "wolf pack," a fleet of deadly Nazi submarines that patrol the area. In a matter of only a few days, the clashes are frequent and deadly. Aware of the great responsibility he carries, the captain lets his spiritual faith guide him and calls upon an enormous reserve of knowledge and skill to lead his crew on this dangerous mission.
Is it any good?
Suspense accelerates, the stakes get higher, and the explosions gets closer in this visually artful, wonderfully performed look into the hearts and souls of WWII's fighting Navy service members. Greyhound can be added to the expanding catalog of Tom Hanks' "everyman" movies in which someone who at first seems ordinary and unassuming is called upon to be indomitable and rises to the challenge. As in Captain Phillips, Sully, Charlie Wilson's War, Bridge of Spies, and more, Hanks brings quiet truth and emotion to his characters. Director Aaron Schneider and his team deliver a timeless story about the strain and poignance of war. There's no pause for backstories; characters develop in the moment. There's no place for artificial conflict among team members; everyone works together. Other than the cryptic scenes in which Krause's significant other is introduced and quickly dispensed with and the arch radio transmissions from a Nazi tormenter, the movie rings true.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence shown in Greyhound. How much actual human death is shown during the battle sequences? Why do you think the filmmakers chose to focus on those witnessing the tragic events rather than those being killed and wounded? Was their concept effective? Why or why not? Did you feel the horrors of war as it unfolded?
Captain Krause was shown as a religious man. How did that aspect of his life help define his character? What valuable character strengths does the captain rely upon to lead his crew? Pick one of those traits and show why it was important.
Were you surprised by the ages of most of the Navy service members on the Greyhound? Did it feel realistic? Many other war movies show the combatants as fully grown adults. How does the portrayal of the very young make the misery of war even more poignant?
- On DVD or streaming: July 10, 2020
- Cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham
- Director: Aaron Schneider
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, History
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: war-related action/violence and brief strong language
- Last updated: August 6, 2020
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