Title – News of the World (2020)
Director – Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)
Cast – Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel
Plot – It’s been five years since the conclusion of the Civil War and Captain turned news reader Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) wonders the American west sharing stories with communities of all shapes and sizes. This simple life Kidd lives is turned on its head when he finds himself becoming the protector of orphaned girl Johanna (Zengel) of whom he must transport across the country to reunite her with her last living relatives.
“See all those words printed in a line one after the other? Put ’em all together and you have a story”
Review by Eddie on 12/02/2021
Renowned for his work on gritty thrillers such as The Bourne Ultimatum/Supremacy, United 93 and Green Zone, News of the World is without doubt the most easy going and dialed back Paul Greengrass film we’ve yet seen.
An adaptation of Paulette Jiles novel, this Western set drama that reunites Greengrass with his Captain Philips star Tom Hanks (once more playing a captain, this time of the Civil War variety) sees the director put away the shaky cam/doco style of film-making that he made his name with and go about his business in a more typical and mild-mannered approach as we follow Hank’s Captain Kidd in a new era of his life as he roams the wild west reading news and finds himself caring for orphaned girl Johanna after a chance encounter on the murderous plains of the American frontier.
Selling to Netflix for a worldwide distribution after a brief cinematic run in the United States earlier this year, News is a prestigious looking film that carries a mid-tier level budget (plus some great work by renowned D.O.P Dariusz Wolski) and the presence of the always affable Hanks offers the film weight but despite the craftsmanship on display and notable turns from its lead actors, including a star making turn from child actress Helena Zengel, News isn’t able to become a new classic of the genre as it struggles to become anything more than a pleasant diversion.
Without expecting too much from the film and placing upon its shoulders unwarranted expectations there are feelings early on that News (a film that seems to share DNA with fellow western True Grit) will be that special type of old-school genre offering full of heart, soul and memorable moments and whilst there are sprinklings of wit, heart and soul throughout, the central friendship between Kidd and Johanna never excels and is never given time to properly flourish while the films various moments of despair and thrills are frequent but mostly unmemorable in their delivery.
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what is missing in the film to make it click into gear to reach that next level but there’s a distinct lack of movie magic here that would’ve made otherwise pleasing but forgettable set ups something more outstanding and there’s a feeling that so much more could’ve been gained from various characters or instances that occur to Kidd and Johanna and while Hanks and Zengel do as much as they could’ve done with Greengrass’s and Luke Davies script, considering the talent and potential here, News could’ve and perhaps should’ve been a new western classic.
Final Say –
A pleasing but forgettable old school Western that is missing a distinct if hard to describe charm and imagination, News of the World is solid stuff elevated by Hanks and Zengal but their respective characters and the world in which they live and breathe in had a lot more to give.
3 1/2 tins of sugar out of 5