A review of the new film “News Of The World”

I’m a huge fan of Tom Hanks (who isn’t?) and I would watch him reading a telephone directory; here we view him as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd reading items in a newspaper to illiterate folk in post-civil war northern Texas. This poorly-paying itinerant role brings him unexpectedly into contact with a 10 year old girl called Johanna (a mesmerising Helena Zengel) who has been raised by an Indian tribe and, on the rare occasions when she deems to speak, utters Kiowa or German.

This unusual western brings to mind two other films. The first is “The Searchers” which is all about an effort to locate a young woman who – like Johanna – has been taken by an Indian tribe. The second is “True Grit” which – like “News Of The World” – is centred on the relationship between a grizzled man of the west and his young female companion.

Both these other films starred John Wayne and were darker. Hanks rarely plays a character who is not decent and kind and here – overlooking the act that (however reluctantly) he was recently fighting for the Confederacy in the defence of slavery – Hanks, who is growing old(er) gracefully, is a wonderfully brave and altruistic ex-soldier.

The director (and co-writer) of “News Of The World”, the British Paul Greengrass, also made “Captain Philips” in which again Hanks has the starring role, but that movie was utterly frenetic and tense. Here Greengrass is unusually languid in this beautifully-photographed terrain. Indeed this thoroughly enjoyable film has an elegiac tone: not only is the old South dead, so is the way of life of Native Americans, so is the carefree wandering of the buffalo, and so are family members of both the principals.

But ultimately this is a delightfully uplifting film that Netflix brings to us when we need it in the midst of a global pandemic in which we deserve all the kindness we can find.


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