“News of the World” is directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93), bases itself upon the 2016 Paulette Jiles western novel of the same name, and stars Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Toy Story) alongside Helena Zengel (Dark Blue Girl, System Crasher). This film is about a widowed Civil War veteran who goes around the world reading the news from various papers to those willing to listen for ten cents. In this film, he ventures with a young girl taken by the Kiowa people in an attempt to bring her to a place she can call home.
“News of the World” was one of the movies I was genuinely looking forward to over the Christmas season. Usually, when there is a movie that comes out near the end of the second half of the year that stars Tom Hanks, that’s usually a good sign. Last year we had “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which frankly did not deliver the goods I was anticipating, but there is no denying that Hanks was perfect casting as Fred Rogers. One film that I sometimes forget about, “Saving Mr. Banks,” which came out towards the end of 2013, features Hanks as a charismatic Walt Disney. Plus, Hanks is just a likable dude. People often claim him to be the nicest guy in Hollywood, and I often get that vibe just by looking at him. He kind of sounds like a fun dude to take on a cross-country road trip. Speaking of trips, “News of the World” centers around two characters who take a trip through the old west to find a home for a young girl, and I must say that the main duo makes for a delightful and charming heart of the story.
Speaking of delightful and charming, those are two words I can use to describe “News of the World.” I do not watch many westerns, but this film, despite taking place in the old west, did not always feel like a western. Yes, it has many of the staples between an excessive amount of horses and carriages, accents, tons of men with crazy amounts of hair, but it also sort of speaks to our world today. It speaks to the climate of our media and how people flock to what they “want” to hear as opposed to what they need to hear, and maybe how the things our media spit out can influence how people think, what people say. That is only a small portion of the film, but I sort of like how the film handled this subject matter because it speaks to our time. Maybe where you live and the people around you can also play a part in that. I live in the Boston area, and we have two big papers. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and while both are highly recognized, it is sometimes declared that each paper seems to cater to alternate demographics. If you read The Boston Globe, chances are you are reading something from a liberal mindset. If you read Boston Herald, you may be reading something from a conservative mindset. This subject matter makes for one of the more compelling moments of the movie. It does not handle it in complete relation to the example I just mentioned, but it did remind me of that.
In some of my recent posts, I have been talking about the Oscars and awards season, partially because we are approaching that time, and some of the recent films like “Promising Young Woman” and “Soul” may have a shot at making some rounds as we get closer to some big ceremonies. “News of the World” is another one of those films, and part of that is due to Tom Hanks as Captain Kidd. I’ve already mentioned he’s good in the movie, but I should point out that he should be a fairly presentable talking point when the Oscars come around. Not only does Tom Hanks look the part, kind of like he did for Fred Rogers last year, but he encapsulates the main character beautifully. For me, my top 3 candidates for Best Actor this awards season are, in no particular order, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Ben Affleck (The Way Back), and now, Tom Hanks (News of the World). I must also say, Hanks’s character in “News of the World” has a fascinating occupation. He goes around reading newspapers for an audience. Honestly, if I lived in the 19th century, that may be what I would do. Well, if I wasn’t writing for the papers myself. Either that or trying to invent videography if there were some way I could do that.
I must not forget, Hanks spends a great portion of the movie journeying with the young girl, played by Helena Zengel. Her name, or at least it’s the name that Captain Kidd calls her by, is Johanna. One thing I really like about their connection is that there is a language barrier between the two, but despite that, you could still get along, you can still have joyous times together, and as far as this story goes, it still feels like a universal story (and not just because Universal distributed this movie). One guy speaks English, the other person speaks Kiowan, but despite their differences, they can get along just fine. Then again, I am terrible at learning foreign languages, despite being good at doing a lot of other things and following several other subjects, so if I were in Captain Kidd’s shoes, who knows? Maybe I’d constantly throw a fit. Even so, “News of the World” presents a universal story, even though our two leads do not seem to have the ease of instantly understanding each other. One more thing to add, it is hard to tell where Zengel will end up in the long run, but I would watch her in a film again for sure, she did a great job here.
When it comes to my complaints for films, it usually involves pacing. I would not say that “News of the World” is an exception to this idea. Because in reality, the film is very well paced until the end. I say that because the heart of the story is between Hanks and Zengel, and once that concludes for the most part, the rest of the movie, while still slightly entertaining and compelling, not to mention slightly emotional, almost feels like borderline filler. Granted, if you know about the backstory of the main character, it truly is not. But that is almost what it feels like at times. At the same time however, one of the perks of “News of the World” is that in every other scene, there is a sense of conflict. There almost always feels like there is a sense of danger, and when a movie can do that, it makes it more watchable. This movie is kind of a slow burn, and as I have said prior on Scene Before, slow does not mean bad. Like a fast movie, slow only means bad if it feels like there’s no control. “News of the World” comes with a little more action than I thought there would be. I know this is technically a western, but it sort of surprised me that we would all of a sudden have this bloody intense shootout, it was really fun to watch and made for one of the more suspenseful and fun parts of the movie.
I went to see “News of the World” with a couple family members, and one in particular seemed a tad skeptical about the film, mainly because it is not their type of movie. They are not usually into period pieces. They walked out of the movie somewhat delighted. They would not consider the film an all time favorite, but they also were not against the film either. Maybe “News of the World” has the potential to reach a wide audience in the future. Sure, many theaters are closed right now, but this film will be heading to VOD soon, so for those who do not have a theater open in their area, this film may come on their radar rather quickly. Although if you do live near a theater, I’d recommend checking it out. Paul Greengrass directed this film, and he does so with what I imagine was a smile. It looks stunning and the cinematography from Dariusz Wolski is also a highlight that heightens Greengrass’s vision.
In the end, “News of the World” is a charmingly beautiful western. Tom Hanks excels as the film’s lead. Helena Zengel is solid in her role. I think the duo has great chemistry. If you take out the fact that this takes place in the old west, set it in modern times, it would still be a worthy allegory of how people view the media while also establishing two likable characters on a journey together. Granted, you’d probably have to change a lot, but this is a story from the 19th century that handles 21st century problems gorgeously. I’m going to give “News of the World” an 8/10.
“News of the World” is now playing in theaters across the United States wherever they are open. Due to a recent deal struck between AMC Theatres and Universal, the film will soon stream on video on demand. In several international territories, the film is now streaming on Netflix.
Thanks for reading this review! Guys, I am pleased to announce that it is officially 2021! Happy New Year! And oh, boooyyyyyyy do we need one. Is it just the passage of time? Technically, yes. But it is also, a new hope. And as for 2020, suck it! We don’t need you here anymore! But tomorrow and next day, we are acknowledging both the good and bad of the past year in my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 3) and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 4). I am super excited to release these lists because yes, I enjoy doing them. For my best list, it is actually something positive about 2020, and with the worst list, I can burn this year to the ground where it belongs. In all seriousness, congrats to the filmmakers and studios who released a film this year. Your work has hopefully delighted, entertained, and amused audiences either in a theater, maybe on the subway, on a small screen on a plane, or at home. But most importantly, you provided an escape, which may be the most important thing about film right now. We all need a trip away from reality, and these films have helped me and many others take journeys to many magnificent places, real or fictional. I’m excited to reveal my top picks, they’ll be up next week, stay tuned! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, check out the Facebook page, and stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “News of the World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hanks film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!