In a virtual press conference for his new film Greyhound, Tom Hanks admitted that he finds most movies concerning the U.S. Navy to be woefully inaccurate.
Part of the inaccuracy, he says, has to do with the technology available. In the 1950s, for instance, this tech “could only do so much just by the relatively primitive aspects of filmmaking techniques.” Movies like Run Silent, Run Deep, The Enemy Below and even In Harm’s Way, the actor concedes, boasted “really great characters,” but lacked a proper understanding of “Naval strategy.” The behavior of these supposed marines, Hanks joked, seemed like it was pulled straight out of Star Trek rather than from studies of actual naval operations.
“I must say, a film buff, and as a guy who reads and pursues history for pleasure, Navy films almost always disappointed me. Because in the 1950s, the technology in order to show them — like Run Silent, Run Deep or The Enemy Below or In Harm’s Way — could only do so much just by the relatively primitive aspects of filmmaking techniques. What you had in them was really great characters. What you had in them was portrayals by actors… Clark Gable and a myriad of the great legends of Hollywood that were put back in uniform (to) relive their days.
As far as the actual Naval aspect of it, I must confess that most of, I think, the populace’s understanding of Naval strategy and protocol and behavior really came from the Starship Enterprise and Captain James T. Kirk. “Mr. Sulu, you have the con!” That sort of, that order of a chain of command that would go along with it.”
Over the course of his prolific acting career, Hanks has starred in numerous war films. Some, like Saving Private Ryan, take place mostly on land. Others, like Greyhound, are set exclusively at sea.
A self-described movie buff as well as a lover of history, Hanks certainly picks his projects carefully. Reinforcing his performance with actual research, he’s been able to portray responses to extreme conditions and situations with surprising accuracy. In Greyhound, he plays an officer from the Second World War who commands a ship in pursuit of Nazi submarines. To any fan of Hanks’ work, the premise should sound both old and new at the same time.
Whether an accurate understanding of military strategy makes for an enjoyable movie is, of course, another question altogether. After all, Greyhound is receiving lukewarm responses from critics, and that’s in spite of Hanks’ insistence on historical accuracy.
Tell us, though, do you prefer your war films to be realistic or embellished? And what did you think of Greyhound? Let us know in the comments!