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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'News Of The World' Review: Tom Hanks Uses The Return Policy Of A Child In Vintage Western Drama

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel on a carriage
Universal Pictures

It wouldn't be awards season without a film featuring Tom Hanks, you could say, and therefore you shall be presented with News Of The World. Directed by Paul Greengrass and adapted to screen by him and Luke Davies from a novel of the same name, the world showcased is Texas in 1870 after the Civil War where a travelling newsreader and former Confederate army captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (played by Hanks) finds a lynched black man and a young girl named Cicada (Helena Zengel) nearby, whom the man was accompanying. The girl turns out to be Johanna Leonberger by her birth name, having been taken in by a Native American tribe as a baby and speaking only Kiowa language, not either English or her native German. Kidd sets out to return Johanna to her closest living relatives which takes the two on a difficult and long journey in the dangerous south as they try to find ways to understand each other. It's a simple story which Greengrass doesn't try to mess with too much so unlike the duo's journey, for the viewer it is rather pleasant with no real surprises.

Technically the film commits to necessary qualities of westerns efficiently across the board as director of photography Dariusz Wolski finds ways to portray Texas-sized landscapes in New Mexico. Maybe the realistic shakiness of the carriage is sometimes overused but on the other hand all the night time action is captured insanely well, bouncing the light tastefully and letting practical sources like campfire do its job as the time period controls much of that. Minimalism with inside settings is equally tasteful. Much of production design and costume work is there to support and supporting is something they do well, however the shot selection isn't all that interested in showing anything beyond that which might've been a missed chance. Visual effects are most likely there for painting over things but with bigger elements like a sandstorm, they weren't used to make the duo's journey much more exciting visually either.

Speaking of the duo, Hanks and Zengel do find their groove rather quickly which was deadly essential for ''News'' to work at all. Greengrass keeps them at the centre of the frames all the way through, especially Zengel, so they're not quite able to test their limits but Hanks' command of wordplay and her moments of silence compliment each other adequately. Silence is also a good tool to use because the film's sound has a lot on its plate constantly, with James Newton Howard's busy score, ton of sound effects (carriage, guns, wind, nature) and chatter of the town's people. Sound overall is effectively used to build the world beyond the camera, highlight being one chase/gunfight sequence at the hills which balances all the pieces. News Of The World never explodes into thrills nor is it interested in diving into Kidd's Confederate past or the region's relationship with Native Americans but the child-and-father-figure storyline has enough sweet moments to work, being indeed very much pleasant.

Smileys: Cinematography, sound mixing

Frowneys: None

You'll also know exactly how it will end and that's just fine in this case.


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