News of the World
In his latest film, Tom Hanks stars as Captain Kidd, a Civil War veteran turned travelling storyteller who wanders from one small town to the next to perform lively readings of national news stories for a small fee. On his ventures, he encounters a young German immigrant (Helena Zengel) who was raised by the Kiowa people after her parents were killed years prior. With no one else able to look after the child, the orator agrees to deliver the girl to her only surviving relatives, beginning an epic 400-mile excursion across the wilderness.
Adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles and directed by Paul Greengrass, the feature depicts an ambitious western road trip as grand as the plains on which the adventure takes place. At its core are the rock-solid performances from Hanks and Zengel, who viewers will have the pleasure of spending much of the flick’s two-hour runtime with. The former is once again flawless as the kind but war-hardened veteran. He breathes so much passion into every syllable that audiences will be just as invested in the news stories he tells as the actual plot. Just as impressive is his young co-star. Despite having little dialogue (and even less in English), she is capable of matching the esteemed American actor on just about every level.
Depicting two lost souls finding their way home, many of the best scenes hinge upon the pair bonding on their journey. Though both parties are initially reluctant to embark on this excursion together, a handful of small interactions gradually strengthen their connection.
While Greengrass’s latest film is essentially a road trip piece, the news stories Kidd reads paints a picture of a world where much more is going on. There’s still fallout over the Civil War, tensions between the settlers and natives are as volatile as ever and bandits lawlessly roam the country – an obstacle the travellers become well acquainted with. There’s certainly no shortage of vision here, but the script doesn’t spend nearly enough time addressing or reflecting upon any of these issues for their inclusion to have any tangible impact on events; a mere bump on the path of their journey than anything substantial.
Guided by endearing performances from Hanks and Zengel, News of the World is a vast and ambitious genre piece. Its only downfall is that the road the pair travel doesn’t really lead to anywhere.
News of the World is released on Netflix on 10th February 2021.
Watch the trailer for News of the World here: