A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
I don’t think Tom Hanks has been in a western before (feel free to correct me on this one!), which is a little surprising giving the length of career, but perhaps his nice everyman style hasn’t been felt to fit in with the cruel and callous nature of the traditional western. In ‘News of the World’, the latest film from Paul Greengrass, this has been corrected, even if Hanks is playing as close to that nice everyman archetype that he’s made a successful career out of. ‘News of the World’ follows Hanks as Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who now travels across Texas reading the news to anyone with a bit of money and the time to spare. His solitary lifestyle is disrupted one day when he comes across a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel) beside an overturned wagon and a dead soldier, and he finds himself tasked with returning her to her last remaining family.
The best word I can use to describe ‘News of the World’ is comforting, which isn’t often a word used to describe a western, but here I think it’s apt. As we follow Jefferson and Johanna as they travel across Texas, there’s something deeply pleasant about following their attempts to bond against the backdrop of wonderful vistas and occasional bursts of violent encounters as is typical of the genre. Helena Zengel was a standout of the terrific German movie ‘System Crasher’, released last year, and she’s really compelling as Johanna, with her piercing blue eyes really making a mark on the audience, and Hanks is Hanks, perfectly cast as the world weary father figure with regret in his heart. There are some beautiful moments when Jefferson realises that Johanna is starting to fill a void left in him and the story really started to work on my emotions, aided by an excellent score from James Newton Howard.
If you’re looking for originality or something more subversive, ‘News of the World’ isn’t going to provide that, but what it does provide is an enjoyable story of two lost souls who find one another by chance, and improve each other’s lives by the time they spend together. I thought ‘News of the World’ was a really rewarding and enjoyable movie with two strong central performances, and a strong recent entry to a genre less visited these days.
Directed By: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Covino, Fred Hechinger, Neil Sandilands, Thomas Francis Murphy, Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel, Chukwudi Iwuji, Ray McKinnon and Bill Camp