Movie Review: News of the World

By Andrew McManus - Contributing Columnist

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Covino, Fred Hechinger, Neil Sandilands

Runtime: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, disturbing images, thematic material and some language.)

As I spoke on last week, we have new releases. Sorry, we didn’t see Pinocchio. I’ve always loved westerns and as I mentioned my Papaw Steve last week, my Papaw Dane loves them. The last movie we saw together was The Mule starring Clint Eastwood. It wasn’t a western per say but we all know Clint Eastwood, in the same vein as John Wayne. Even before covid-19 flipped our worlds upside down it got harder and harder to take Papaw Dane to the movies. He’s 85 years young and doesn’t like to sit still like he used to! With social-distancing this will definitely be one to show him at home. Also of note this film is based on a 2016 novel by the same name written by Paulette Jiles. I did miss him beside me this week, but I was also excited. When has Tom Hanks contributed to a terrible movie? He’s obviously the cowboy we all know and love in Toy Story but this is a real-life version. Although there didn’t seem to be any snakes in his boots.

Onto the film.

We open with our protagonist Captain Kidd (Hanks) he’s preparing for his “new” occupation as a news-reader. I’ll explain more on this in a moment. As he is getting changed we see his body is scarred from the Civil War. He looks through a curtain to see a large group gathering. We are in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1870. Patrons drop money into a bucket as Kidd (Hanks) prepares his evening. He is there to bring the news to various towns throughout the country. His first segment is on meningitis saying it “has claimed 97 souls in just a two month period.” This dialogue wasn’t a coincidence. In today’s world of Covid-19 people speak daily on the new numbers and new deaths. Greengrass, our director, made sure this line lingered on and in my opinion would allow the reader to feel a connection to today’s world.

The score of this film is your classic western theme, but it really adds to the ambiance of this tale, by not being overbearing. It reminded me of True Grit, the remake starring Jeff Bridges and how you were swept away into the old west. I just needed a cowboy hat and boots, or one of my classic flannels.

Kidd (Hanks) finishes his “performance” and prepares to head off to his next town. As he starts his journey he then approaches a knocked over wagon. Rifle in hand, he approaches following a trail of blood until he sees a man hung from a tree, AND a young girl named

Johanna (Zengel.) She is dressed in Native American clothing and looks lost. Kidd begrudgingly takes her with him to check her status with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to see if she has any surviving family. This turns into Kidd (Hanks) being tasked with taking the girl back home to her aunt and uncle. This reminded me of Saving Private Ryan in a sense as he was also tasked with getting someone back to their family. The story really picks up as the duo head off into the unknown. Naturally, they face the elements of the wild, as well as, bandits of various sorts.

Maybe its nostalgia every time I see a western, or the fact that they are so few and far between but this film was above and beyond the last few weeks. Both leads, Hank and the young girl Zengel were exceptional. They form a bond that evolves as the story plays out and you really root for the pair. The scenery is beautiful to watch (especially on the big screen) and the score, as I stated, works. A small criticism is it gets a little cookie-cutter at times. I was right with most plot points I guessed in the beginning, there are a few surprises but this didn’t weigh the film down. I’ve been to our local theater here in Portsmouth, and even others in Columbus and each theater works extremely hard to keep things safe given our current climate. Please go out and enjoy this film. It’s still early in 2021, but I’m confident this will end up being one of the best films. 4 ½ stars out of 5.

By Andrew McManus

Contributing Columnist

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper