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'Greyhound': Tom Hanks' WWII Drama Is Also a Journey of Faith

July 13, 2020 | By

Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called BASED ON, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies.

Greyhound, written by Tom Hanks; directed by Aaron Schneider, based on the novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester.

Upon release of the film there was high demand for the paperback version. After listening to an audio sample, I can say that, if you enjoy the detail of Patrick O’Brian and Herman Melville, you will probably like Forester, also the author of The African Queen and the Horatio Hornblower novels.

Greyhound grips viewers in a taut war thriller. During WWII, the U.S. Navy protected Merchant Marine ships bearing supplies and infantry across the Atlantic Sea. The film focuses on traversing the “The Black Pit,” a two-day gap where the naval convoy sailed naked from Allied air cover and thus, was left most vulnerable to German U-boats (submarines).

Christ, yesterday, today and forever.

One of the first scenes features a flashback where Captain Krause (Hanks) exchanges Christmas gifts with his sweetheart, Evelyn (Elisabeth Shue). His gift to her is a small banner of the Hebrews 13:8 line (Jesus Christ is the same) “Yesterday, today and forever.” As Krause sets out on his maiden mission, it coincides with the Christmas event, the beginning of a lifelong journey with the Lord.

Pray for your enemies.

The crew of the USS Keeling, code-named Greyhound, depth-charges its first U-boat, and one of the naval officers comments: “That’s 50 less Krauts.” Krause reminds him, “Fifty souls.” Even though we never see the face of this invisible, submerged enemy, the film finds a way of humanizing these men through a simple line.

Christ, yesterday, today and forever

Captain Krause prays constantly throughout the film … saying grace, the first act of waking up, the last thing before bed, over the radio, burial at sea, even if it means an eye roll from a less pious subordinate.

Content advisory

The film economically uses up its one allotted “F-word”. An officer curses in front of Hanks, who doesn’t need to say anything before said officer apologizes. Curbing one’s swearing translates into a pragmatic advantage beyond the moral one: the Captain relays steering directions through terse commands, any delay … a sneeze, a cough, an extraneous word could mean the difference of swerving out of the way of a torpedo, or not.

Liturgy of the Hours

When the convoy enters “The Atlantic Gap” chapter headings mark the time and the watch: Forenoon watch, dog watch, morning and back to forenoon watch. The rhythm of the watches referenced the liturgy of hours, prayers every Catholic cleric and religious are to recite in keeping spiritually vigilant.

The commitment to prayer by Krause keeps him professionally alert in keeping the convoy safe. Also, the journey into “The Black Pit” begins on a Wednesday, the cat and mouse game between Greyhound and the U-boats might be metaphor of a certain Spy Wednesday, which leads into…

…Holy Thursday

The Captain, does not sleep a wink through the two plus days over the gap. Enter mess specialist, Cleveland (Rob Morgan) who provides constant coffee and appetizing meals.

Those comprising the cooking unit are all black. On face value, we rightly see this as a slight, as they’ve been relegated to the least glamorous function (but they also load ammo for the gunners, which puts them at considerable risk). But I would say, they humbly complete the most spiritual of tasks, in the same the way a priest consecrates bread and wine, the laity’s spiritual food for the week.

Sailors can’t execute their duties if starving and verging on delirium. They require food to start a new day, and the “pep” of coffee for the day’s task. All sailors depend on the sacrifice of those toiling in the mess hall below, who in turn, depend on a certain Savior whose one-time sacrifice was offered forever.

Originally set to be released in theaters, Greyhound is available for streaming on the AppleTV+ platform. If you buy an Apple device, you get a year of the Apple TV+ service free. There is also a 7-day free trial, and it costs $4.99 a month after that.

Image: Apple TV+

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