Film of the Week 23.02.21- News of the World

For my choice, this week- News of the World- is the unlikely title for a western and the director Paul Greengrass an unusual choice since he is best known for the Bourne action thrillers. But this is not a conventional western being based on a best- selling book by Paulette Jiles.

Set in 1870, five years after the end of the American Civil War, a former Confederate Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, played by Tom Hanks, travels from town to town in Texas giving public readings and stories from the newspapers. On route, he encounters a young girl hiding under an overturned wagon near the hanging body of a black union soldier. From papers he discovers that she is an orphan who was abducted and raised by the Kiowa native American tribe. Despite his reluctance he is obliged to take her to her only living relatives, a long journey of over 400 miles.

Their journey is full of incidents allowing Greengrass to use his talent for fast action, but the core of the film is how the relationship between the grizzled Captain who has his own history of trauma and the virtually mute girl who has lived with peril and loss, develops in a most moving way. Hanks is superb in his first western role, masking his innate goodness behind his weather- beaten careworn persona and he is matched by a remarkable performance by the young German actress Helena Zengel.

While the film does have longueurs, the cinematography is superb with references to both John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ and the original ‘True Grit’ and the visual quality emphasizes the grit and grim of the old West with no glamorizing.

This is another of the new films that deserves to have a cinema screening. It was released by Universal in the States at Christmas but is now exclusively on Netflix. Highly recommended.