When you find yourself not wanting a film to end, it tends to be a good sign. With News Of The World, that was definitely the case for me. This sprawling Western road movie is excellent, and deserving of more love than I think it’s currently getting.
It follows a Civil War veteran (Tom Hanks) who happens upon a young girl (Helena Zengel) taken by the Kiowa people when she was very young. He agrees to deliver her to an aunt and uncle, hundreds of miles and many grave dangers away.
A beautiful bond and fantastic performances are the cornerstones of this film
Everyone loves Tom Hanks. With all of the classics he’s brought us throughout his career and all of the lives he’s touched with the characters he’s played, AND the fact he’s world-renowned for just being a top bloke, it’s kind of impossible not to love him. His name being attached to a film sets a certain precedent; that the project will be worth watching just for him. News Of The World is further proof of this. He is on top form as Captain Kidd, a decent man with a few layers to uncover throughout the film.
Of course, this is a narrative that paves the way for a double-act to take centre-stage. Opposite Hanks we have Helena Zengel, who absolutely commands the screen despite sharing it with a legend. They were fantastic together, and made for a phenomenal pairing as their characters’ relationship developed throughout the film. I liked how this development relied on more than dialogue thanks to the language barrier between the two characters. So much was said in facial expressions and body language that could never have been conveyed as well through words. I think the film and its performances benefitted massively from the fact that the actors weren’t confined to rigid dialogue.
News Of The World knows where its strengths lie and focuses on allowing them to shine
A criticism I’ve seen a number of people have about News Of The World is in regards to its pacing. A lot has been said about it being very slow and uneventful overall, and whilst I understand where this comes from, I would like to take a minute to throw a counter-argument out there. For me, the pacing fully suited the story and, more importantly, the character development. It allows you to warm to the characters organically over time in such a way you never want to say goodbye to them.
In this sense, News Of The World bore a lot of resemblance to Red Dead Redemption 2 – a video game that I’m sure a lot of people are convinced is the only one I’ve ever played thanks to how much I talk about it. Its epic saga has been said by some to take a few chapters to pick up steam, but by the time it reaches its conclusion, everything is wrapped up in what feels like the blink of an eye thanks to how the narrative and it’s characters have developed throughout. For this very reason, it is also a game that benefits massively from multiple play-throughs. I think News Of The World will garner similar feelings over time. I suspect it will age very well, and multiple viewings will do it a lot of favours.
On the point of the film being uneventful, however, I have to say I disagree. It was punctuated with peril, whether that be from man or the elements. There were some tense moments, especially as the film progressed. The characters had the chance to grow on you, and this made the stakes feel higher.
Fans of Westerns will like this film
The cinematography is typical of the genre. Sweeping views of the rugged, sun-baked landscapes are aplenty, and really give a sense of the vast scale of the journey our two protagonists are on.
Speaking of the genre as a whole, as I was watching News Of The World, I couldn’t help but be reminded of True Grit. The two share a lot of similarities, although it would be fair to say that this film has a slightly more light-hearted tone. The grizzled old man/head-strong young girl combo is a winner as the two characters complement each other so well. Both films would make for a great double-feature methinks.
Patience is a virtue
On the whole, I can do no more than heartily recommend News Of The World. Aside from the obvious (it’s a film starring Tom Hanks), it really does have a lot going for it. Helena Zengel absolutely holds her own opposite such a legend, and together they are wonderful. It gives you a real opportunity to connect with the characters in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and if you fall for it as hard as I did, you won’t ever want it to end. If you’ve been deterred by rumours of its slow pace, I would urge you to give it a go anyway, and more than once if possible. I really think this is a film that will get better with every viewing.