In Brief: This semi-western is not Tom Hanks’ best work but not his worst. But it’s still Tom Hanks and who doesn’t like Tom Hanks?
Tom Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd. Set in the late 1800s after the Civil War, Kidd’s profession is reading news from newspapers to the citizens of towns in Texas. It costs each person a dime to attend the reading.
On his travels, Kidd finds a wagon, a dead man hanging from a tree and a frightened young girl. She was kidnapped by the Kiowa a few years before. He finds papers stating she is to be taken to her aunt and uncle in another part of the state.
Kidd can’t leave her there so he takes her to U.S. soldiers helping to settle Texas. They won’t do anything so Kidd decides to do the job himself and get the girl to her relatives. Along the way they encounter a trio of bad guys wanting the girl and other dangers.
Plus, Kidd deals with the reason he’s no longer with his wife and family.
Hanks is always — for lack of a better adjective — Hanks. All of the adventure revolves around the importance of getting accurate news and information to people who rarely hear of anything outside of their small circles. The captain’s sense of right, wrong and justice and the importance of saving the girl drives the story.
It’s another perfect role for Hanks. No actor working today does the extraordinary ordinary man better. In fact, the only rival Hanks has for being the all time best extraordinarily ordinary actor is 1940s through 1970s star, Jimmy Stewart.
The real scene stealer in News of the World is newcomer Helena Zengel. She has very few lines but her body language, facial expressions and beautiful blue eyes speak volumes. The chemistry between the girl and Hanks is exceptional. It also helps drive the movie.
Hanks rarely fails to find interesting projects and deep, rich, three-dimensional characters. News of the World reunites him with his Captain Phillips director, and the movie’s co-writer, Paul Greengrass.
He also works overtime to give authenticity to the story. Greengrass brilliantly engineers sets and scenes that put you into the late 1800s and gives you an authentic view of the chaos of the post-Civil War times.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Tom Hanks, Luke Davies, Paulette Jiles novel, Ray McKinnon, Helena Zengel, Mare Winningham
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and language. As a box office draw and video streaming draw, Tom Hanks can’t be beat. The good news for News of the World is that it’s a pretty good film. Give it a 4 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
You can stream News of the World on Netflix.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.