Tuesday 15 February 2022

Movie Review: News Of The World (2020)

A decorous but episodic western, News Of The World journeys through a post-war landscape riddled with pain, mistrust and divisions.

The setting is Texas in 1870, five years after the Civil War's end. Captain Jefferson Kidd (Tom Hanks) of San Antonio served in the Confederate Army, and now makes his living traveling to ramshackle towns as a newspaper reader. Kidd theatrically animates his readings to perk-up weary townsfolk overburdened by work and demoralized by the South's defeat.

On the road outside Wichita Falls, Kidd stumbles upon a recent lynching and rescues the abandoned Johanna (Helena Zengel), a spirited blonde and blue-eyed young girl of German heritage. She was abducted as a child and raised by the Kiowa Tribe, and has now been orphaned twice over. She only speaks the Kiowa language, and Kidd does not find any officials willing to take responsibility for her. He reluctantly decides to take Johanna into his care for the 400 mile journey to the town of Castroville, where she may have relatives.

A staid road trip movie, News Of The World examines a defeated society still reeling from the emotional and economic ravages of war. Director Paul Greengrass co-wrote the script with Luke Davies, and creates in the story of Kidd and Johanna a sturdy frame to carry a diverse set of observations. The bond between lonely traveler and lost child is both a strength and a challenge: it's easy to foresee how their trip will end, but in the comforting presence of Tom Hanks, it's also easy to ride along.

Events along the long road to Castroville are presented in discrete short story chapters. Kidd's empathetic demeanour calms down a crowd getting restless at Federal meddling and omnipresent blue-uniformed soldiers. A dangerous episode features three outlaws led by Almay (Michael Angelo Covino) seeking to force Johanna into the sex trade. Kidd and Johanna then ride into a self-declared racist fiefdom run by Mr. Farley (Thomas Francis Murphy), and here the news reader intentionally agitates the crowd against their oppressor. Next, the plains of the Kiowa tribe are home to a side-trip to the past, an accident, a vicious sandstorm, and a magnanimous gesture.

The travails are beautifully filmed and capture the loneliness of a wide open country dotted with small settlements, where time passes slowly and dangers are born from a marriage of human desperation and unforgiving terrain. The simple unifying theme explores deepening roots of mutual respect, two-way learning, and growing dependence between Kidd and Johanna, a surrogate father-daughter thread nurturing two souls traumatized by loss. It's neither complex nor dramatically imaginative, but suitably soothing.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.