News of the World is the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) traveling from town to town in post-Civil War Texas, journalistically espousing reports from across the country at 10 cents a listen. Kidd’s world is upended when he stumbles across Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young girl who was abducted from her home by the Kiowa people and raised as one of their own. Having been “saved,” she was to be reunited with her last remaining blood relatives until her escort perished. Kidd decides to accompany Johanna personally—a journey they are both reluctant to take.
What works in News of the World is the creation of a modern western film through the blending of timeless themes with superior artistry. Writer and director Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, The Bourne Ultimatum) leverages his expertise in framing characters intimately to develop some absolutely gorgeous shots as Hanks and Zengel traverse the remote Texas landscape. Their trek is accompanied by yet another sweeping scoring by James Newton Howard (Batman Begins) that captures the changes in mood and the era adeptly. All in all, News of the World is a delight for the eyes and ears of those who love the genre.
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Individuals who are either well-versed in, or simply do not care for traditional western cinematic storylines (especially “lone wolf and cub”) may not enjoy News of the World as much as others. While all of the acting and writing elements are perfectly serviceable, Greengrass doesn’t add much by way of novelty which may lead to some asking: “haven’t I seen this story before?” It’s true that Hanks’ inert charisma helps the proceedings, Kidd isn’t given nearly enough depth to understand his character’s decision-making choices or make the performance particularly memorable. There’s no facet of News of the World that is particularly weak, but there’s also little to make it stand apart from its peers.
News of the World is quite well constructed, but its mileage will vary depending on individual preference for westerns and general knowledge with its common narrative arcs.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Road to Perdition, Man on Fire