Commitment is what transforms promise into reality. Those are the words of a wise man, the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln. And why are these, seemingly jaded words with a grave, old-school theme so important today? Well, in part because during these mad, modern times of pandemics, lockdowns and cultural misappropriations, human beings have perhaps forgotten about their commitment to being compassionate and understanding.
Tom Hanks’ latest film, Greyhound, released on Apple TV, has strong themes of commitment and integrity. And perhaps, this old war classic from Hollywood, is a reminder to all of us during these testing and bizarre times, that we must look back at our past, at everything we did right and wrong and learn. Learn, so that we may come out of these uncertain times with the right amount of grit and gumption. History is in reality a guide to understand what should and shouldn’t be done.
Greyhound, directed by Aaron Schneider, who’s previously made the sublime Get Low (2009), is surprisingly written by Hanks.It’s not everyday we get an acting veteran like Hanks penning down a screenplay. He’s done it before for Larry Crowne (2011) and That Thing You Do (1996), but those were films he had directed. Here, the acting legend has taken a deep dive into a war-time epic with gunships, submarines and naval warfare; themes he’s dabbled with before as an actor, but not really as a writer and/or filmmaker. Does he do well with penning the ideas in this battleship-inspired, sea-jargon drama? Aye aye, Cap’n! It is perhaps Hank’s old-school approach that really makes Greyhound such a wonderful cinematic delight.
The film features a convoy of merchant ships sailing through the Atlantic, carrying crucial trade items from America to England and dozens of these ships are escorted by four US and Canadian Navy gunships, led by Commander Krause (Tom Hanks) captain of the destroyer ship Greyhound. Mid-Atlantic, the convoy is attacked by multiple German submarines, then called U-Boats, and Krause, manning the orders, takes it upon himself to lead the defence against the wily and more-lethal underwater Germans.
What Hank’s writing brings to the table is a masterful 90-minute drama that manages to condense the 300-odd page novel into a crisp and engaging story. Even though the film is short and has plenty of nautical action set-pieces, the narrative retains a novel, dramatic quality, thanks to the musings of its protagonist, Commander Krause. He is a man of honour and integrity, but he has his fair amount of shortcomings too. In his maiden voyage as leader of this dash across the Atlantic Ocean, he realizes he’s responsible for the life and well-being of thousands of sailors and soldiers aboard the 37 ships under his command. A devout believer in Jesus, Krause, finds his own burden unrelenting, but he makes peace with his adversity by being committed, disciplined and brave.
It is these qualities of Krause, that make him a veritable relic of a human being, by modern standards. He gives more importance to prayers than to food, has oodles of patience even during the most stressful situations and doesn’t appreciate expletives from his battleship crewmen. But for all his jaded idealism, Hank’s manages to present Krause as a man who tackles adversity with resilience. The captain doing his best to protect his fleet of ships from the raging sea and the ravenous Germans, rises up to the occasion through sheer and infallible dedication to his responsibility. Over the course of 50-odd hours, he refuses to sit down even once, glossing over the idea of eating and resting. Tirelessly like an old guard he stays put in the bridge of his warship commanding the crew endlessly in one battle after another. All this, while having serious amounts of self-doubt and fear of the unknown.
Does this make him a model citizen? By 2020 standards, certainly yes. Amidst this maddening uncertainty of daily life, especially during lockdowns, people really need to remember that persistence & discipline are golden virtues when it comes to survival. Just like Krause, if we can keep our hope alive, not lose focus of our most immediate goal and rally on with a good heart & strong belief, then we can survive insurmountable odds too.
Krause, through initiative and clarity, is able to put up a good fight against the conniving Germans. His patience and determination overcome the technical advantage that the Germans hold over him and his fleet. And perhaps that is the golden rule for every individual who wants to survive 2020 and look forward to better times. Like Krause, if people believe in themselves and work towards realizing their hopes & dreams without losing heart, they too can achieve the unthinkable.
Having watched another one of Hank’s top-notch performances, I can assure you that we will all coast through these tough times with strength. Just like Commander Krause and his motley crew managed to survive the epic war adventure back in 1942, we too will blaze into a better and brighter new future – a happening time, when hot tubs of popcorn and cushy seats of theatres will make a comeback. The time when we will watch the big screen tell stories again for us to gasp in amazement.
Of course, there is a sea of difference between life lessons in a movie and the kind of tides and waves that real-life can throw at you. But, the fact of the matter is, if you stay committed to survival and the protection of your loved ones, you can sail through a hurricane unscathed. Its just a matter of belief and holding your nerves. The best part about hope is the fact that you can find it in the most unlikely places and in the most fickle of forms. But no matter where your inspiration comes from, what really matters is that you stay inspired.