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  • Writer's pictureEllis & Gareth

EBGB's: 'News of the World'

Ellis and Gareth discuss the recent Netflix film 'News of the World'. As you probably guessed, Ellis is EB and is in italics and Gareth is GB and is shown in BOLD.

EB: Right so, initial thoughts! Straight from finishing, what did you think of the film?

GB: My initial thought was, “meh, that was alright” but with that particular intonation which is hard to write down. It was okay, but it wasn’t a bad it’s okay.

Yeah I think I agree I think it wasn’t anything that we haven’t seen before; it didn’t do anything particularly new in the Western genre. I don’t want to say it was one of Hanks’ weakest because his performance was really good, but he’s brilliant in anything. But, out of the films he’s appeared in it’s one of my least favourites.

Yeah, if you took him out of it, what would it be?


Because even though Helena Zengel’s (because I’ve got her written down here) performance is great, I think it’s great because Tom Hanks is with her.

But then I felt that their chemistry was kind of lacking. By the end, with what happens in the conclusion of the film I didn’t feel that emotionally involved.

It was hard obviously to build that bond because of the language barrier, but then that’s their own doing I suppose.

It was based on a book wasn’t it? Because I listened to an interview the other day with Paul Greengrass where he said he didn’t realise, when he first picked the text, how relevant it was to the world now.

Yeah there’s one part of the film where he was clearly making that link apparent. So when they were in that town with the guy who wanted him (Kidd) to read the paper, that was clearly a nod to the world we’ve been living in with Trump and fake news. But almost to the point where it was like yeah okay, I get it.” It could have been subtler perhaps.

Yeah I think so. I think the reason I wasn’t blown away by the film was because it had slight pacing issues. And until you get to that first sort of shootout on that cliffside, I feel it’s really quite slow starting. And at that point I thought “Okay we’re gonna kick into gear here now” and it didn’t.

It can be a problem with this sort of travelling/journey based film where it just feels like you’re building up to a set piece. You know when you’re playing a game and you’re watching a cut scene and you just know that the bit coming up is where you’re gonna have to dive in and sort this out?

Yeah, yeah! The film’s going “Get ready for another set piece.” The thing is I love films like that, which have a protagonist who are going on a journey and they pick people up on their way. So the oldest example I can think of, and I’m sure there’s examples that predate this one, is Wizard of Oz. In that, you’ve got your protagonist and the group gets bigger as you go on. And obviously this didn’t do that, but I think those “journey” films can be better and not depend on the set pieces.

I think almost like the title, News of the World, doesn’t really tell you what it’s about. It makes you think it’s going to be a film about him delivering the news and the boring side of me kind of wants to hear more about that side of the character. Because, we don’t have a job like that these days . It’s like, have you ever seen the film…oh what’s he called? Spielberg…


No! Lincoln? With Daniel Day-Lewis.


I was sort of expecting more like that, a changing history kind of story. But I don’t think the title reflects the film.

I think as well in the same vain, when the conclusion of this whole journey of him delivering Johanna to the location and completing his quest happens, after that I was thinking well what are we doing? The best bits of acting actually came after that point, in the epilogue.

Yeah! What happened there was he went for a cry didn’t he!?

Exactly! I kind of felt that Paul Greengrass, who also directed Captain Phillips, kind of just wanted to have a moment at the end of this film, like the one that closes Captain Phillips, where it’s just Tom Hanks on screen and he’s upset and he’s amazing. It feels very similar tonally and it doesn’t quite work because we haven’t been through everything with him as closely and as intimately as you do in Captain Phillips.

And with Captain Phillips it’s a story you’ve never seen before. Where as this I feel like we’ve seen very similar stories.

It is hard to believe that it’s Paul Greengrass’ first Western. But it’s also Tom Hanks’ first Western which is crazy.

Really? I love a Western.

Yeah they’re so much fun. But I think that this didn’t have as much fun as Westerns tend to have. But Paul Greengrass shot it beautifully; especially for his first time using that landscape.

There’s so much room in Westerns for style and I think the style here was really good. Perhaps just the story wasn’t enough of a story to make a great film.

Which is weird when it’s a whole film about him telling stories.

Apart from the shootout scene. That scene really stands out in being similar tonally to Captain Phillips because it didn’t rush itself. It was really tense in a brilliantly slow way. He let the whole scene play out. And I suppose that must be Greengrass in his absolute element.

And also it shows the character as an absolute badass. He took all three of them on.

And Johanna with the bloody coins. What a genius!

Yeah I loved that. Johanna saved his ass a couple of times actually. There was the time with the gun later on where you thought he was gonna cop it and then out of nowhere, there she was.

I smell a sequel. The grown-up Johanna being an absolute badass.

News of Johanna.

She just strolls into a saloon with coin-filled guns. “My name’s Johanna…bitch!”

Did you hear that little girl? She called me a bitch!

**Ellis & Gareth fall about laughing for a minute or so**

This is another film that I thought would be better at the cinema. All films are but I think this was made for the cinema.

I assume that’s why the release date has changed so much. Early on I really hoped that cinemas survived the pandemic but the more we go on the more confident I feel that they will because the more you talk to people, the more you realise that everyone loves going to the cinema and right now everyone misses it. It’s not just people like you and I who love film and watch as much as possible, everybody goes to the cinema.

Yeah, it’s part of our fabric isn’t it! And it’s how film companies make their money, from cinemas.

Well just comparing something like Mulan to Tenet. Mulan was available to buy on Disney+, Tenet opened at the cinema during the pandemic, and Tenet still made more money.

So, in summary, we started off saying “meh it was alright”, now we’ve finished talking about it has your opinion changed? We haven’t had many good points to say about it.

No we really haven’t. And my initial response was to give it a 3*. And then the more I think about it the more I think it’s a 2*. But I don’t think it is. I still sat their and enjoyed it to a degree I wasn’t sat there wishing for the end of the film, but I definitely did notice the slow pace.

I think Tom Hanks adds a star.


I think it would’ve been a 2* without him but he just brings an aura doesn’t he!

He does! It wasn’t until Philadelphia, Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump came along that people realised that he can be a real dramatic actor. Before then he’d primarily been a comedy actor. But when I think Tom Hanks is best now, is when we still see that comedy through him. And in this there wasn’t that! It felt like the text didn’t utilise every part of him. The more you demand from Tom Hanks, the better the film.

And that’s why News of the World hovers above a 2*. It is his voice and the aura around him that works.

Where does it rank against other releases of this year so far?

That’s a good question. I’ve only got six films in there so far. It’s probably going to go 5th out of 6. Outside the Wire is in 6th but it’s a big jump between those two.

Yeah you’re not comparing those two. I’ve just got in front of me my list of films watched from 2020, and one film that’s jumping out at me is George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky. They are very, very similar films. A massive actor in the forefront, and everything that surrounds them isn’t as captivating.

And it’s got a similar scale budget-wise.

And a similar relationship between that lead and a young girl; big, vast landscapes as well.

Crazy! They’re very similar actually. And I gave that a 3* as well.

I gave it a 3* also.

Well there you go we’ve stumbled across a right gem there.

EB - ★★★ GB - ★★★

News of the World available now on Netflix

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