Isn’t it strange that before NEWS OF THE WORLD, Tom Hanks had never done a Western? Well, buckle up because this film is exactly what Hanks had been waiting for. Admittedly, I am not usually a huge fan of Westerns, but this film had me hooked from the beginning and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The story’s slower pacing really earned the audience’s relationship with the characters and had me on the edge of my seat even until the end credits started to roll. And it’s interesting that despite this film taking place in the late 19th century, it still holds many themes pertinent today, particularly the importance of truth.
Set five years after the Civil War, NEWS OF THE WORLD follows ex-Confederate soldier Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks), who travels around Texas reading communities the news. His stories aren’t necessarily the most breaking news of the day, but are more scintillating stories used to entertain audiences. Kidd’s home is the road—the reason becoming more clear as the film progresses. And his life is pretty lonely, that is until he comes across the body of a lynched black man and finds his terrified companion, a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel), hiding in the nearby woods.
Johanna was taken from her family at a young age by a local Native American tribe and grew up with them, learning their customs. When she was finally “rescued”, Johanna and her companion were on their way to her closest relatives’ homestead. Now that she is alone, Kidd comes to the realization that he needs to be the one to take her home, despite the perilous journey, language barrier, and Johanna’s reluctance to trust him.
Not only does NEWS OF THE WORLD have one of the best scripts I have seen on-screen this year, but its gorgeous western cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and beautiful score by James Newton Howard really add to the film’s artistry. Director Paul Greengrass (BOURNE IDENTITY; CAPTAIN PHILLIPS) usually has a more frenetic filmmaking style, using handheld cameras to capture fast-paced action. But he instead recognizes the importance of stillness, shooting this film like a classic Hollywood Western.
Of course, the standout of the movie is Tom Hanks, who gives one of the best performances of his career. Let’s be real, Hanks is good in everything he is in, but NEWS OF THE WORLD is both a stretch from any other role he has done and a statement of his talent. The role and film succeeds because of our perception of Hanks’ trustworthy, America’s dad persona; because of that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. His chemistry and fatherly relationship with Zengel’s Johanna was critical to the emotional build-up of the story. And by the end of it, I was so invested in their relationship that I was threatening my television if I was not happy with the final outcome. Due to spoilers, I will leave it at that.
I know I keep highlighting the importance of the cinematic experience, but NEWS OF THE WORLD feels like an epic studio film that you should be watching in a theater to appreciate the beautiful cinematography and fantastic performances, with little distractions. I just hope you see this film however you can when it comes to VOD early next year. You won’t regret it.
My Review: B+