Based on the 2016 novel of the same name, News of the World is a classic Western film that has a strong emotional arc to satisfy viewers. But ultimately, this is Tom Hanks’ film.
The movie is set in 1870, five years after the Civil War. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a widower and veteran of three wars, spends his days traveling from one Texas town to the next, reading newspapers from around the world to the public.
One day, Kidd stumbles upon a young girl named Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel). She was kidnapped as an infant by the Kiowa tribe, and now her Native American family has been killed by the soldiers. She’s “an orphan twice over” and has no home, and she doesn’t speak English. Knowing the dangers of the post-war world they currently live in, Kidd takes it upon himself to deliver the girl back to her last living relatives.
The last thing either of them expects is to grow fond of each other over their journey. This is a beautiful and heartfelt piece about two strangers who find comfort in each other’s company. They each have burdens from the past that haunt them. Director Paul Greengrass, who worked with Hanks in Captain Phillips, knows his actors and his material, bringing their best forward.
I can’t imagine any other actor fit to play the role of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd. Compassion, empathy, warmth and kindness echo through Hanks’ interpretation of Kidd. He takes his character to a new level to showcase a man who has seen a lot and chooses to move on from his rough past by bringing some joy to people with news readings.
When he tells the crowd, “we’re all hurting,” he speaks with regret and sorrow. Hanks is one of those actors who can effortlessly convey what’s hidden in his character — we see a glimpse of Kidd’s buried emotions every now and then.
Helena Zengel, who barely has any dialogue in the film, uses her expressions alone to convey the fear and sadness she feels, while displaying the innocence of a child. The young actress more than holds her own as she shares the screen with Hanks.
The film did seem to drag in a few scenes, but apart from that it is beautifully crafted with impressive cinematography. It doesn’t get too detailed about the political issues during that time, and instead focuses on Kidd and Johanna’s heartfelt journey. The film is a strong Oscar contender and Tom Hanks will likely be in the running for Best Actor. ~ Marriska Fernandes
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