News of the World

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A travelling newsreader takes in an orphaned girl in . Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd () is a former member of the Confederate Infantry, who now makes a living travelling from town to town and reading the newspaper headlines to the paying public. One day while travelling between towns, Jefferson comes across an overturned wagon and encounters a young German girl () in Native American dress. Jefferson finds papers to reveal the girl's name to be Joanna and he is subsequently tasked by a passing Union patrol to turn her in to the authorities so that Joanna can be returned to her surviving family. However, when it turns out that the proper representative will be gone for many months, Jefferson has to take it upon himself to ensure that Joanna finds her way home.

News of the World is a western film that sees director and co-writer Paul Greengrass reunite with Tom Hanks, after their Oscar-nominated collaboration in 2013's Captain Phillips. Based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, News of the World tells the story of emotionally scarred Civil War veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who reluctantly takes in the orphaned girl Joanna, who was raised by the Kiowa tribe and does not speak a word of English. On his way to bring Joanna back to her surviving family members, Jefferson encounters a number of obstacles, including outlaws who want to take Joanna and a radical band of militia, seeking to purge the country of outsiders.

Most well known for directing the Bourne films, News of the World continues the recent trend of Paul Greengrass of moving from action into different genres, such as the nautical thriller Captain Phillips and the terrorism drama 22 July. For this foray into westerns, Greengrass tells a story that is relatively light on gunplay and instead focuses on the growing bond between a grizzled war veteran and the orphan girl he takes in. Tom Hanks' lead performance is arguably the best element of News of the World, as he plays a man living with regret about the life and wife he left behind many years ago during the Civil War. For much of the film, Hanks has to play off of 12-year-old German actress Helena Zengel, who has the challenge of portraying Joanna as someone the audience cares about, despite the fact that she doesn't speak or understand English.

Despite the solid lead performances, the biggest thing that News of the World has going against it is the very fragmented and episodic nature of the plot, with there not really being many stakes to this film. In some ways, News of the World is a story that might have been better fleshed out in a television series than compacted in a single two-hour film.

Overall, News of the World is a solid western, despite not being the most spectacular film.

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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