Tom Hanks saddles up, in a new movie that’s familiar, but also heartwarming. Rick Brough has it down, for this week’s Friday Movie Review.
Tom Hanks has never played a Western character before. (We are not counting Sheriff Woody.)
But despite the historical setting, “News of the World” is another tale with Hanks as a hero, in his modest and unpretentious way, standing for decency and civilization.
The weather is Texas in 1870. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kydd, one of the many rootless souls lost after the Civil War, who travels from one dilapidated town to another and, in its best Sunday, reads the last newspapers to its captivated audience. .
News is usually about epidemics, floods, other routine disasters. But the captain will also highlight bizarre human-interest stories. Maybe he invented News of the Weird.
One day, a death on the road forces the captain to take care of a young girl named Johanna. His German immigrant family was wiped out by the Indians, and after being raised by the Kiowas for six years, he considers himself a native.
You’ve seen this story before about the bond that develops between a crisp adult and a moppet that’s cute, albeit tough. The formula works, thanks to the unconventional setting and humanity brought to their roles by Hanks and incredible 12-year-old German actress Helena Zengel, who conveys a variety of moods and emotions, despite being either silent, or speaking a different language, for most of the film.
Paul Greengrass previously directed “United 93” and “Captain Phillips”, which starred Hanks.
While the film is essentially a character study of two people, Greengrass also captures the violent and radical backdrop of Texas in the depths of reconstruction. There are a lot of pirates who walk this land, although they thankfully don’t include Captain Kydd.
Among the dramatic episodes, a local tyrant in a colony demands that the captain not present – well, let’s call it fake news – to his audience. And the captain and Johanna must fight a gang of child-nappers, resulting in a battle of bravery on a steep mountainside.
On our “cowboy-up” scale, “News of the World” scores four out of five. For the Friday movie review, I’m Rick Brough.