News of the World
review by Bobby Blakey
Tom Hanks not only seems to be the most likeable man in Hollywood he has proven to be one of the most talented. He continues to take on a variety of roles and never disappoints. His latest, News of the World teams him up with Bourne director Paul Greengrass to head into new territory of the Civil War. Could this trip to the west be another hit for Hanks or will it fail to make the news?
News of the World follows five years after the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of three wars, now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. In the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna, a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she’s never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home.
I love all things Tom Hanks, but even more so when he takes on roles that I refer to as un-Hanks like. This seems like a ridiculous statement since the man can clearly do anything, but I expect him in the more dramatic or light hearted roles and not the grittier hard-edged things like Saving Private Ryan or my personal favorite Road to Perdition. This film falls in that category for me and steps right in to make it a Hanks like role with ease. I don’t mean any of that as an insult just a perception and I am always elated that he continues to not only take on these kinds of roles, but always knocks them out of the park.
This is initially a slow burn film that kind of limps along as it is setting everything up. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a necessary beat for the film to establish the tone of the overall direction and the kind of drab life of the time period. This doesn’t last long as it quickly shifts its tone when Captain Kidd played by Hanks stumbles upon this young girl perfectly play by Helena
Zengel. This sets them out on a journey of discovery, violence and emotion that delivers so much more than I had expected. This is far from an action film, but there is still plenty of gun fights and fights against the elements sprinkled in to keep the film exciting and moving along.
Hanks to no surprise delivers yet another great performance that is full of emotion that is needed to really drive this home. His performance is nuanced with determination and purpose in a time that has taken it from him. His co-star Zengel holds her own with this A list powerhouse bringing the innocence and vulnerability to the character while still having a strength and purpose to her. These two have great chemistry and you fully believe in their slow building connection despite the language barrier they share throughout. It’s this element that really elevates this film to something more than just another simple western.
I am so glad to see Hanks in a western, which is a genre we just don’t get enough of these days. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, but I came away really happy with the depth and powerful elements and performances this film provided. I know it won’t work for everyone, but for me it delivered exactly what it set out to and more. It’s sad it got lost in the current pandemic theater struggles, but glad that it still pushed through for a theatrical release mimicking the struggle they pushed through on the screen as well.
Decide for yourself and check out News of the World in theaters now.