News of the World

Showing on Netflix.

Directed by Paul Greengrass adapted from a novel by Paulette Jiles. Tom Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd a former Confederate soldier who now makes his living as a travelling news reader visiting towns and cities across the southern US sharing newspapers stories to paying crowds. As he moves between towns he discovers a young lost girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel), who speaks no English having been brought up by the Kiowa who themselves had taken her from her German parents. Kidd finds papers with her that point to an aunt and uncle who will take her in and decides he will take her there himself. We then follow there long and often dangerous journey to get both Johanna and Kidd home.

News of the World is really a classic buddy road trip movie. We have our odd couple, Kidd and Johanna who both have pasts that haunt them and futures that are uncertain. As they travel, as you’d expect, these two very different characters start to build a bond, two souls that have clearly suffered loss and tragedy, finding solace and hope in each others company.

Greengrass does a fine job of capturing that classic western feel, with wide impressive vista’s matched by gritty oppressive towns and lively meeting halls. There are some interesting modern parallels as they travel between towns and regions which are keen to rediscover their identity in the aftermath of tumultuous times but not overtly so that it takes you out of the feeling of place and time.

News of the World is steady if not spectacular and while the final act feels a little “flabby” as it meanders toward its predictable conclusion, the first two thirds offer a nice balance between relationship and tension.

Tom Hanks is typically and predictably watchable and convincing as the grizzled and damaged veteran. He is more than well supported, in what is fundamentally a two hander, by 12 year old Zengel, who while she has little dialogue she says much in her mannerisms and facial expressions.

News of the World is solid if not spectacular story telling, but in the hands of Greengrass and Hanks that’s enough to keep it it interesting and engaging enough to keep you watching.

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