No matter how old I get, I will always treasure a western movie. News of the World is such a film that thrilled me from the start. From it’s story, the scenery, the gorgeous cinematography and the direction of Paul Greengrass(who previously work with Tom Hanks on Captain Phillips) all wrapped into one complete package that will surely entice the audience. I will warn you though that despite all the previews that I’m sure you’ve seen, this isn’t an action picture. Instead, it’s a heartfelt drama that examines loss and the bonding of two unlikely people who happen to meet by chance.
The movie takes place in the Old West. Five years have passed since the Civil War has ended, and from looks of the towns that we visit, it doesn’t appear that these communities are thriving. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) travels from town to town and gets all the locals together to hear news that is occurring across the great land of the United States. Most of it isn’t really the best of news, but still it’s his job to inform the public of what’s going on. Just drop a dime in the tin cup and you have yourself a storyteller so to speak.
Although not an actual job, Captain Kidd enjoys his work and is eager to travel from place to place. Along his travels he comes across a broken down carriage and finds the driver hung from a tree (or lynched might be a more appropriate word here) and a young girl who’s left all alone. Through the discover of some paperwork, Captain Kidd learns that this young girl is a native of Kiowa people. Her family had been slaughtered and now she is being transported to the last family members she has left in Texas.
We learn this young child’s name is Johanna (Helena Zangel in her American debut). She’s quite young but not exactly a child. She knows her way around the land and despite the fact that she can’t speak a word of English, Captain Kidd does his best in attempting to communicate with her. Following a series of events, Captain Kidd decides to transport the young girl himself to her relatives. It’s here where the movie really envelopes into something special.
This is western debut for Tom Hanks and his performance here is nothing short of wonderful. His relationship with this young Kiowa native makes for a unique paternal relationship. He educates her on things they see along their travels and when things get messy, he’s their to protect her. Sure enough, there are some action sequences in the film but they serve more as a backdrop to the main focus of the story- Captain Kidd and Johanna.
News of the World is based on the novel of the same name that was written by Paulette Jiles. Luke Davies and director Paul Greengrass provided the screenplay and I really appreciated the idea of showing us two varying individuals and their struggles along on old dusty western road. We do get to meet some interesting characters and some unsavory ones but I won’t divulge as to who they are. One of best moments in the movie is a scene in which we understand the loss of both characters and how they are able to cope with all that’s happening in front of them. This is a wonderful film that boasts excellent acting from its central cast with a special nod to Helena Zangel. I was moved with the story and the tension that they faced. The drama feels real, I loved the set designs as well as the costumes and being brought back to the world that was before I was born. Did I also mention, that I got caught up in the moments when Captain Kidd is reading the news? I felt I was in the room with him hearing the news for the first time!
Score 4 out of 5
News of the World is a searing drama that blends astounding direction from Paul Greengrass and a great leading cast from Hanks and Zangel. I will tell you not to expect a great deal of action as you may feel disappointed; I overheard one attendee mention that he was surprised how little action there was. Still, when Tom Hanks is on the screen and Greengrass is behind the camera, you know that you’re in for a real treat. News of the World is perfect entertainment for anyone who loves a good western or just a simple story anchored by incredible lead actors.