TL;DR – A compelling ride through the 1890s with a man trying to his best in difficult circumstances
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this film.
News of the World Review –
There are few actors around that you know going in will always give their best performance no matter what film they are in. One of those few is Tom Hanks who gives his all even in movies that are not that great. Today we get to explore a film that puts him right in the centre of a world going through a difficult transition.
So to set the scene, we open in Wichita Falls, North Texas, 1870, on a cold a rainy night. Here we find a Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) speaking with the fine folks of the town. They are cut off from most of society, so he lets everyone know the news of the time, like a local fever going around or river crossings being cut, for a fee of 10c. On the way to the next town he stumbles across a black man who had been lynched, and the young girl Johanna (Helena Zengel) who he was carrying. She had been taken in a raid by the ‘Indians’, and she had been brought back to what was left of her family. When some Cavalry riders arrive, we discover that Captain Kidd served with the Confederate Army in the Civil War. They tell him to take the girl to the next town, but things are never as easy as that.
I like that this film understands that it is walking into uncomfortable and difficult territory. All Johanna has known in life is those who kidnapped her, and part of her drive is to return to her family that is not her biological family. It also does not shy away from what was happening to the Indigenous people across Texas and across America during this time. There is also the fallout of the Civil War and how that is experienced by the people in the world and the different socio-economic classes. The wonton disbelief that the people are banning slavery in the town is hard to watch. It does hold back a little in really exploring what is going on, which is a shame, but overall it captures that moment in time.
In essence, this is a road-trip movie set in the 1800s, and instead of wacky adventures, it is processing the trauma of their past and present. Which means that at the heart of this film is the bond between Kidd and Johann or as she prefers Cicada. This is where the film succeeds the best as you feel that connection grows across the runtime as they face different threats. While it should come to no surprise that Tom Hanks is fantastic in this role, I want to spend a moment to give credit to Helena Zengel, who has a challenging role to play and nails it.
Another strength of the film is its production that takes you back to the world of the 1890s. I understand that the movie was filmed in New Mexico, which helps as they have the standing sets of this time that take you back in a single pan of a camera. It also lets you use some beautiful locations or quite often some of the brownest lands on Earth. All of this is helped by to musical score from James Newton Howard that it often reserved right before it soars.
In the end, do we recommend News of the World? Yes, I think I would. It is not a perfect film or revolutionary in any way, but solid production and acting as well as some tense moments hold you for the entire run time. If you liked News of the World I would also recommend to you High Ground.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of News of the World
Directed by – Paul Greengrass
Screenplay by – Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies
Based on – News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Music by – James Newton Howard
Cinematography by – Dariusz Wolski
Edited by – William Goldenberg
Production/Distribution Companies – Perfect World Pictures, Playtone, Pretty Pictures, Universal Pictures & Netflix
Starring – Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Covino, Fred Hechinger, Neil Sandilands, Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel, Chukwudi Iwuji, Ray McKinnon, Bill Camp, Fred Hechinger, Clint Obenchain & Thomas Francis Murphy
Rating – Australia: M;