Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA/Canada/China, 2020. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Stage 6 Films, Bron Creative, Zhengfu Pictures, Sycamore Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, Playtone. Screenplay by Tom Hanks, based on the novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester. Cinematography by Shelly Johnson. Produced by Gary Goetzman. Music by Blake Neely. Production Design by David Crank. Costume Design by Julie Weiss. Film Editing by Mark Czyszewski, Sidney Wolinsky.
American naval commander Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) is the captain of USS Keeling, known by its radio call sign “Greyhound” and one of three ships escorting thirty-seven Allied vessels across the Atlantic Ocean towards Liverpool. Captain Krause has never made this crossing before and is responsible for the safety of the entire convoy, a task that becomes a dangerous and dire challenge when the ships reach the “black pit”, a gap in the Atlantic where there is no protective air cover from allied planes. This leaves them quite vulnerable when they are beset by a wolf pack of German U-boats and must figure their way out with minimal casualties. The idea of so tight and lean a World War II movie (which is only ninety minutes long) is fascinating, the film is literally pared down to this one experience from the starting line to the finish with very little embellishment otherwise, rarely leaving the claustrophobic confines of the ship at sea. Other than a few tense moments at the climax, however, there’s no spark of dramatic excitement to really set it apart from others of its kind, Hanks playing concerned morality is nothing new, neither are endless scenes of tough guys yelling at each other up and down tight naval corridors. Worst of all, the majority of the images on screen are created by visual effects that are never for a second convincing, it’s hard to separate the difference between the gun-metal blue of the waves and the craft itself and the CGI ocean never creates the atmosphere that the script (by Hanks), in being so concentrated, is going for. It’s a surprisingly dull result for a film based on a book by C.S. Forester, whose work previously resulted in the adaptations of The African Queen and Horatio Hornblower adventures. Elisabeth Shue contributes warmth to her very short cameo, while director Aaron Schneider fails to recreate the glow of his debut feature Get Low.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Sound