In the age of films that we see on the big screen today, it’s almost an oddity at this point to see a western do as popular as this film has become. I’m not saying this to disparage the genre in any way, the western genre has been in spirit guiding the stories that grace the silver screen for a very long time now, but it’s just a new feeling seeing a flat-out period western that has seen so much acclaim from both the general public and the critics in their ivory towers.
Does this mean we’re going to see more cowboys slinging guns across the wild, wild west in our theatres in the near future? I can’t say for certain. However, from the looks of things, you may be seeing this particular film make the circuits of the annual awards shows here very shortly.
“News of the World” follows one Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a confederate Civil War veteran and former newspaper publisher, living his life as almost a primeval Anderson Cooper, travelling between towns in postbellum Texas to read various newspapers to whoever will listen for just ten cents (equivalent to about two bucks today) at the door.
In his travels, he comes across the aftermath of a lynching, finding a live 10-year-old girl and her processing papers to take her to a US checkpoint. This girl (Helena Zengel), named Johanna in her papers, does not speak a single word of English. She speaks a mix of German, the language of her birth parents, and Kiowa, the language of the Native Americans that took her in after killing her parents. After running her by the proper authorities, Captain Kidd and Johanna take up a wagon and set off on the 400-mile journey back to Johanna’s aunt and uncle.
I say that this is like “The Mandalorian” in the title more in a joking manner, of course. If anything, The Mandalorian took this story from the western genre. The story of the old warrior taking the child from one place to another is one of the stories that never really gets old. Much like those stories, News of the World is at its best when everything is going wrong. Whether that’s fending off bounty hunters, surviving dust storms or even toppling a county-wide dictatorship, the scenarios that these two nearly polar opposites get into are really what make this film different from, say, “True Grit.”
Is the film spectacular in any way? I wouldn’t say that this film isn’t really breaking any new ground in the medium. What I can say about this film is that it doesn’t do anything poorly, which is something we can all really appreciate in these trying times.
Now, if you are going to check this out, I would be behooved to tell you to put aside some extra time. It’s just at the precipice of two hours, but I’d say it feels more like a solid two hours and 15 minutes. This is pretty usual with movies over 90 minutes, but it’s good to know these things ahead of time.
All things considered, “News of the World” does what it sets out to do with excellent execution. In addition to all that, it provides us with more Tom Hanks, which I think everyone could use in these times.