Tuesday, December 29, 2020

News of the World

The idea of a man travelling from town to town to read newspapers may seem quaint in today's information age, but the collaboration between Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks offers a classic low-key western that is the dramatic equal to their previous collaboration, Captain Phillips. It may not be The Searchers, but Greengrass offers a wide-open canvas for Hanks to provide one of his better performances in recent years.

Traveling from town to town, reading his collection of recent newspapers, Captain Kidd (Hanks) comes across a lynched soldier and a young girl (Helena Zengel) who, as one character succulently put it, has been orphaned twice. Raised by the Kiowa people who killed her family, only to see the tribe wiped out by Union soldiers, Johanna's only living relatives live far south towards the home Captain Kidd has avoided since the end of the Civil War.

The set-up is fairly simple, the reluctant Kidd decides to deliver the wild girl no one else seems to be able to control, home. On the road, the pair encounter various obstacles while learning a bit about each other, themselves, and where they belong.

Adapted from Paulette Jiles' novel of the same name, the script by Greengrass and Luke Davies captures the uglier side of the wild west while moving events forward to after the Civil War to also touch on racial themes of the defeated Confederacy. Our two characters, both broken by events they have seen and only able to communicate on a basic level, reveal their secrets grudgingly as we learn how Captain Kidd came upon his unlikely career and what has kept him from returning home. Hanks imbues Kidd with a tragic nobility and Zengel gives Johanna a fierceness and determination far beyond that of a regular 10 year-old. The pairing works. Even if the road they travel doesn't offer much in the way of surprises, and the end of the journey is all but decided the moment Kidd decides to take the girl South, News of the World is filmmaking done well.

No comments: