News of the World Still Tom Hank
(from left) Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) in News of the World, co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

NEWS OF THE WORLD: Greengrass and Hanks rustle up a western winner

Ask any movie lover, reviewer or even passing layman who the biggest movie star in the world is and chances are they’ll tell you it’s Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt. I say nay, it’s Tomm-ayyyy. That’s right, Tom Hanks is one of the biggest – wait, more like the busiest– movie stars in the world.  Damn straight, partner.  It was literally just yesterday that we saw Mr. Hanks in the not bad submarine war film called GREYHOUND (2020).  Although most the of special effects were obviously CGI, the acting wasn’t.  The story was lean, efficient and fast like Tom was in the film.

Ask me and I don’t think much of Tom Hanks as an actor.  Sorry, FOREST GUMP (1994) lovers, but I said so shoot me down like the dirty varmint I am.  Mind you, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) was great and probably had the best first 20 minutes of any entertainment since Prince released the song Cream back in the 90’s.  Not counting the oh so great at any age voice work for the Toy Story series and the criminally (pun) underrated flick ROAD TO PERDITION (2002), Tom Hanks has existed it seems within films to support great directors get their voices and poetry heard around the world.  But damn, ain’t he got horseshoes up the wazoo and hooks up with another brilliant director, Paul Greengrass, to star in NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020).  

For me, I’ve always found Mr. Hanks to be a serviceable actor at best but he is the greatest driver of any movie sportscar that there has ever been.  Put him in the driver’s seat of a finely tuned machines that were the aforementioned films and most often, he’ll drive across to the finish a winner. Exactly my point with NEWS OF THE WORLD.  The director, Paul Greengrass, he of the best of the BOURNE series and of course the other Tom Hanks collaboration, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013), ends up with all aces in this tale of a weary ex- Civil War Captain, Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who has taken up a more relaxed career crossing the dry expanse of Texas as a news reader.  You see, pardner, a news reader is someone who acts as the internet that we have nowadays to disperse the news across all the towns of Texas to people that have been beaten down by the Civil war that has just ended and wanting to hear how the world is faring through these disperser of the news.  I for one had no idea this service ever existed.  Such a great premise unlike the psychotic war soldier taking on one last job before they retire to their farm up in the wilds of Arizona.  No, we as an audience aren’t insulted in that respect and thanks be to Paul Greengrass and the writers for that at least.  A fresher premise that is but isn’t really but who’s gonna be shooing field mice after all? Capt. Kidd happens to be on to his next town when he finds an orphaned girl all alone and puts it upon himself to bring her to her only family located completely off his route through Texas.  What they encounter on the way, both man-made and natural, is the heart of this great tale.  

Yes, we’ve heard this story before but dangnabit if Tom and his young ward don’t carry across their travails across the harsh plains with enough finesse that we start feeling empathy with these characters.  Another major star in this film is the beauty of the cinematography.  Greengrass’s parched but elegiac images tell a story upon themselves and are a beauty to behold.  Credit has to be given to Helena Zengel who plays the part of the orphan so beautifully with almost a feral grace yet unwillingly displays a certain childlike softness in milli-fragments, making us wonder if this girl will explode with ferocity or perhaps run off and leave Capt. Kidd behind.  

Tom Hanks needs to be given credit for giving this tale it’s Velcro fastening, grounding all the images and hardships they face with his gaze or his quick actions or measured pace.  His reserve is just perfect for this tale as Harrison Ford’s character was in THE FUGITIVE (1993).  Just enough gravitas without showboating.  Bravo.

The story can be seen as run of the mill but what is so wrong with a tale that you get completely lost in despite and in-spite of yourself and your rational thinking?  I’ll be the first to be the most jaded type of viewer but darn-it-all, i was caught up like a shoeless horse at a sideshow rodeo.

Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks and a fine cast of supporting players has made one of the best westerns in years and damned if I wasn’t resisting the swaying pull of this simple tale of two lost souls against the best and worst that the wild west can toss their way, come hell or high water.  Yup, NEWS OF THE WORLD is well worth enjoying to the fullest before sentimental dust bitten tales such as this go the way of modern day fables.

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