‘News of the World’ Film Review

7 mins read

One of Netflix’s latest February additions delivers a new film with Tom Hanks in the lead role – setting the expectations high. So, get yourself ready for a two-hour ride of adventure, drama and the Wild West.

With News of the World we get to watch another heartwarming performance of the actor best known for characters like Forrest Gump or Captain John H. Miller in Saving Private Ryan

The Western that premiered on February 10 follows Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) three years after the Civil War in the US. Kidd turns out to be a veteran traveling from town to town in Texas making a living by reading the News – quite literally ‘The News of the World’ – to everyone that is interested.

Co-Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, this is the first time Hanks and the director have worked together since their Oscar-nominated film Captain Phillips from 2013, setting us up for high hopes. 

Based on a novel of the same title by Paulette Jiles, the film impresses by its prestigious cast and crew. 

The film was originally set to premiere in theaters around the world but did a 180 turn and was directly taken on by the streaming service internationally because of Covid-19. US-Americans were the only people getting to watch the film in cinemas, premiering on the 25th of December 2020.

Tom Hanks stars as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, Image credit: collider.com

After being introduced to the main character Captain Kidd, who is portrayed as very serious and who has to deal with his own struggles in life, we get to see his travels across Texas. Shortly into the story he comes across the lost 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), who is a girl that was kidnapped by Kiowas six years prior and grew up as a Native American.

This leads to the first of many challenges they have to face. Both of them have a hard time communicating with each other until they grow closer together. That is mostly because Johanna is quite hostile towards the unknown world she gets thrown into and understandably has a hard time adjusting.

Kidd agrees to take Johanna home to what is left of her birth family, although this is against her will. With that decision begins a long journey through the wilderness having to conquer challenges and dangers along the way – who would have guessed?

The storyline is solid, putting us through some unexpected turns, which are mostly delivered during the right times in the film, to build suspense and keep the viewer engaged and interested. 

Throughout the film, we get to see Captain Kidd and Johanna form a heartwarming relationship, overcoming challenges together, constantly leaving us wondering what will happen to both of them, when and if Captain Kidd completes his mission of bringing Johanna to her new home. 

I found the characters to be represented as lost, dwelling in their own phases of life and looking for some sense of belonging, linking them close together, despite their seemingly big differences of age, culture and life circumstances. 

Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) and Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel), Image credit: kino.de

This feeling is mostly created by the performances of both leading roles, Hanks and Zengel. We wouldn´t really expect otherwise from Tom Hanks, but a very impressive and interesting performance is delivered by 12-year-old Helena Zengel.

The German made her first big appearance in the German film drama Systemsprenger (Systemcrasher) stirring up the world of film critics with her extraordinary performance (very much worth a watch!).

Although both of her characters are quite similarly depicted by Zengel in certain scenes – especially loud and angry sequences – she surely delivers a worthy representation of the strong and stubborn girl that is Johanna, in her first big Hollywood production. 

Standing out to me was the last scene in the film, which gave the character another notion from the rest of the story and works well for showing character development. 

Zengels performance was quickly recognized by the film world, helping her to achieve her first Golden Globe nomination for the ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture’. So, watch out for that on February 28 – I, for one, as a fellow German have my fingers crossed for her.

Besides having a cast that delivers great performances, the film can also score by its sets, costumes and lighting that really puts the viewer into the 19th century Wild West vibe. Additionally, what I found to work very well, was the use of language and dialogue between Captain Kidd and Johanna, who slowly had to make their way to communicate and grow close, despite their differences. 

The end of the film was abrupt and was honestly a little disappointing for it being over this quick, but it leaves you wondering.

To me News of the World was, overall, a worthy and enjoyable watch, especially thanks to the cast and setting, taking us on a journey of adventure, drama and emotion through the Wild West.

Nevertheless, it is two hours long and I surely did not love it so much that I would sit down and watch it again tonight or anytime soon. But, I would recommend it to everyone looking to dip their toes into another genre or anyone who is just in need of a new Tom Hanks film / going on a Tom Hanks binge during lockdown.

News of the World is now available for streaming on Netflix. 

Feature image credit: fanfarecafe.com

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