News of the World

Tom Hanks Western 'News of the World' Coming to Netflix Internationally -  What's on Netflix

News of the World is a classical, character-driven western amped up by the strength of its lead performances and cinematography.

Directed by Paul Greengrass of Captain Phillips and United 93, News of the World stars Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran and former newspaper man. He charts course across a divided, post-civil war America, going from town to town and doling out the news along with hope or despair depending on the headline. It’s on these journeys that he finds in the woods a corpse and a toppled buggy, with a lone girl inside and some papers telling her story. She’s Johanna, a German orphan adopted by  then taken from the Native Americans who slayed her parents. Kidd takes it upon himself to find her the home she’s had taken away from her on more than one occasion, undeterred by the challenges ahead of them.

Tom Hanks is a gem as usual. This is a capital m movie star who’s committed to naturally exuding warmth and empathy with nearly every role he takes on in this stage of his career, but it works and he’s great at it. Hanks plays Kidd as gruff, grizzled, a little rough around the edges, a performance that seems a little out of left field in the canon of Hanks but without sacrificing the qualities that make him so endearing as a performer. He’s flawed, we know he’s done some things he’s not proud of prior to the events of the film, but he’s atoning for those actions with an outstretched hand and caring heart to a person who needs it, a beacon of decency in a world that doesn’t always adhere, the ideal stage on which for Hanks to work his magic. Fortunately, Hanks has a more than capable scene partner throughout in Helena Zengel, who plays Johanna, the child who he embarks on the journey at the center of the movie with. Her performance is mesmerizing and layered with nuance and captures a character with a fiery spirit and worldly inner life. 

The vistas and wide plains of a western are catnip to any cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski creates a soft unease amid the ethereal hues of the frontier. There’s an air of uncertainty that comes with their arduous journey that clouds over the majesty of the terrain. Wolski’s cinematography basks in that majesty but doesn’t let it shake its focus on the characters at the center of it all. You become enveloped in the vastness of Captain Kidd and Johanna’s travels, but fearful of what may lie ahead.

Greengrass’s film seems primed for the big screen with its wealth of setpieces motivated by scale and environment, but in the current times, a good portion of the people who watch this movie will watch it at home and the movie seems just as set for that viewing experience with its stripped-down moments in between those grander ones.

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