News of the World

"There's a snake in my boot!"
8/10 - Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel make a terrific father-daughter-style pairing in this slow but emotionally satisfying Western.
Release Date: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Written by: 

Tom Hanks helps return a young orphan to her relatives in this slow-moving Western.


Tom Hanks has reunited with his Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass for an entirely different kind of project, which is streaming on Netflix now.

In News of the World, set in 1870, Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who has been travelling from town to town reading the news to locals following the end of the Civil War five years before.

We follow Captain Kidd as he sets off from Wichita Falls in Texas following a reading and comes across a hanged man, an overturned wagon, and a young blonde-haired girl dressed in Native American clothing who is unable to speak English.

He discovers official papers that reveal Johanna (Helena Zengel) is a German orphan who has been living with the Kiowa tribe for the past six years after they killed her family and kidnapped her. She was in the process of being taken back to her aunt and uncle in Castroville, some 400 miles away.

After the authorities aren't much help, Kidd eventually decides to return her himself.

This Western essentially depicts two people getting from point A to point B and moves along at a slow and leisurely pace. But it's never boring thanks to the central relationship between the Captain and Johanna. It was nice to watch them slowly form a connection and something like a father-daughter bond, despite the language and cultural barriers.

Their journey would still be quite dull to watch if there weren't any hurdles along the way, so thankfully, there are some tense encounters with antagonists to up the thrill factor. The stakes during these moments didn't feel too high though, since the film stars Hanks and you know he'll be the hero who saves the day.

Hanks is reliably excellent as the good-natured captain and warm-hearted paternal figure, but the revelation here is Zengel.

The 12-year-old German star - who gained notice with her lead performance in 2019 German movie System Crasher - recently earned Golden Globe, Critics' Choice, and SAG nominations for her supporting role and it's easy to see why.

She's a marvel as the fiery Johanna and doesn't let the side down when paired with a seasoned Hollywood veteran like Hanks. Johanna tends to speak Kiowa first, so Zengel had to grapple with a new language in addition to everything else.

She's a quiet, insular person who barely speaks but you know exactly what she's thinking as her face says it all, and her acting in the latter stretch is terrific.

News of the World boasts stunning cinematography depicting the dusty Texas plains and a strong central relationship for viewers to get invested in.

Yes, it's possibly a bit too slow, but your patience will be rewarded with an extremely satisfying emotional payoff at the end.

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