News of the World ★★★
Starring Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon, Mare Winningham
Where would we be without Tom Hanks? It's a question we ask ourselves daily at Focus Film and since watching News of the World, that question can also be asked of this film. Where would it be without Tom Hanks?
In a Western genre movie set just after the conclusion of the US Civil war, we meet Captain Jefferson Kidd (Hanks) as he travels from town to town reading out the news to those who can't read at all. Then, while on is travels, he finds.a young girl without her family and ends up on a journey to find her new home.
There is nothing overly wrong with this movie. The scenery is stunning, the set pieces are entertaining and the general plot is as emotional as one would expect. There is a fantastically tense moment early in the film that shows how drawn out, improvisational, sweaty and difficult a shoot-out could be. This is by far the best moment of the film and truly shows director Paul Greengrass in his element. It's clear that Greengrass was aiming to make parallels to the fake news, binary political environment of today with some of the elements here. This did feel a little forced and on the nose at times although it was a welcome link to modern times.
The rest of the movie plods along from set piece to set piece and never really goes beyond simple entertainment. News of the World is packed with Western notes we've seen before which is, on the one hand comforting, while on the other a little underwhelming. It would have been interesting, for example, to see more of Captain Jefferson's profession as a travelling news reader, but instead we were treated to some excitement and peril that will suffice for a casual watch.
As always though, Tom Hanks wins the day and raises this movie up from a straight-to-video drama to a Western worth a watch.
News of the World available now on Netflix