Paul Greengrass, who directed ‘News of the World,’ is mostly known for directing several of the Jason Bourne movies. He directed ‘Captain Phillips,’ as well, which also starred Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks.’
It’s nice to see them together again in this film. Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies adapted the script from the book of the same name, a popular novel when it came out in 2016. This title has had a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding it. Though I found it to be quite a satisfying watch, I wouldn’t say it has Academy Award® Winner written all over it. Author Paulette Jiles, who hails from Missouri, wrote the story this film is based on. She was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award with the narrative. ‘News of the World’ takes place in Texas, the state where the author now resides. She moved there with her husband in the 1990s, and though she has since divorced, Jiles still considers Texas her adopted home and has lived there ever since.
‘News of the World’ begins in 1870 along the border of Texas and Indian Territory. We first meet Civil War veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, played by Tom Hanks, working as a traveling newsman of sorts after his wife’s death. Captain, as he’s referred to, plays early days pundit. He goes from town-to-town reading state, federal, and world news for people who wouldn’t otherwise know what’s going on outside of their small town. This News isn’t always received well, primarily when Captain Kidd reports to Texans what the Yankee president wants them to do. He does this for a fee, of course.
While leaving Wichita Falls in North Texas, he stumbles upon a ten-year-old child named Johanna (Helena Zengel), whose family was killed. She was kidnapped by the Kiowa Indian tribe six years before. Those very same people have abandoned this stray after the death of Kiowa’s who initially took her. She is frightened and alone.
On the roadside, he finds some papers about who she is in a wagon that had been demolished. He then attempts to get her to the people capable of finding what’s left of her real family, an aunt and uncle. He’s unable to accomplish the task. He then takes on the responsibility of getting her to them himself.
The road to where they’re headed is perilous and is going to take weeks. He’ll be taking Johanna through hill country, which proves to be treacherous. Not only is the land hazardous, but the people they meet along the way aren’t exactly friendly types.
Since she was four at such a young age, Johanna only speaks the language of the Indian tribe, but that doesn’t stop Captain Kidd from talking to her all the same. He’s tries to keep her at ease by using a gentle voice and teaching her as much as possible at the same time. He even lets her know he understands the plight of the Native Americans; that settlers kill the Indians for land, and the Indians kill the settlers for taking that land. Knowing what had happened to her, he looks directly at her and says, ‘I guess you know something about that.’ Thankfully, he runs into someone who can tell him what the girl is saying. He’s told that the young his charge likes him. After, the two travelers then begin to communicate with one another a lot better.
With all the trouble he gets into along the way, why he’s taking her is for you to decide. Does the Captain satisfy something from his childhood? Is he benefiting in some way? Does he want to take advantage of the child, or will he harm her? As in most westerns I’ve seen, there are bad guys, and there are clear good guys. Which one is he? Is where he’s taking her a place she’d want to go? Are these people capable of caring for her? These questions, as well as others, will be scrutinized during the length of the film. How Greengrass and Davies have the story unfold with their incredibly talented lead and this fresh new face that you’re sure to see get more work soon is intriguing, cinematically breathtaking, and, well, just plain entertaining! Again, I can’t put it in the category of one of 2020’s Best, but I do suggest you see it. Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel will make the 1 hour and 58 minutes you have to put into watching it count.
News of the World
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies
Stars: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Marvel, Ray McKinnon, Helena Zengel, Neil Sandilands and Mare Winningham
Running Time: 1h 58m
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama