News Of the World premiered on 10th February 2021 on Netflix. The American-Chinese Western drama film is co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles. The film was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review.
Post-Civil War Texas
Set in Texas in the 1970s after the end of the Civil War, News Of The World revolves around the journey of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) who travels from town to town and reads the news to the locals and gets paid for the same. As many people from the working and middle class didn’t know how to read they relied on people like Kidd to read news for them in order to keep them updated about world affairs. His profession and the travel requirement led to him becoming an isolated man who also happens to leave his wife behind.
He’s an entertainer as much as an informer, his readings range from choosing what to read to how to present it. His travels and encounters also establish the idea that he can read through people which is a handy skill to have. As his journey continues and he sees a dead black man hung on a tree with a racist poster on his neck, he comes across an innocent Kiowa speaking girl he names Johanna (Helena Zengel) and promises to drop her home safely despite all odds and hardships and this is the journey we further follow watching them go through human and natural obstacles.
While this is the basic plot idea of News Of The World, this simple idea is executed with such nuance and detail in every aspect ranging from locations to clothes and to the character’s accent and surroundings. Hanks feels completely in the moment in this film, responding to each situation realistically instead of sinking into the bland protagonist that could have hampered the growth and success of the storyline. The film takes time to gain pace and while the actor and character developments are flawlessly done, the film never exactly reaches a high-point in the plot graph but rather stays on a straight line with few bumps.
There is no denying that the majority of News Of the World is a road movie more about survival while travelling with a high emotional quotient on unstable landscapes consisting of barren land and deserted areas. But it’s disappointing how the film refrains from more tense and integrated gore and inter-cultural dispute sequences related to those times. While there are some flat and scar-less moments in the film, like neither Kidd nor Johanna have a bruise or scar to show even after jumping from a runaway horse and cart which leaves the horses dead. In a journey as difficult as this, some aspects are questionable.
One moment I found extremely well thought over and executed by Paul Greengrass is when Kidd travels to Erath County, a midway town in their journey. The country is isolated and violence-driven with fake and propagandist news leading masses under the leadership of Mr. Farley (Thomas Francis Murphy) who forces Kidd to read the same news. But Kidd finds his way out in a smart way and the idea of a man trying to bring a fractured and blind-sighted nation back together through knowledge and truth has some relevance in our times.
Not every theme and idea is well fleshed-out in News Of The World, however. There are various places where you’ll feel a lack of depth and execution but what still makes this movie worth watching is the fact that the actors and scene-setting, for the most part of it, are brilliant. After all, Hanks has an undeniable charm and power.
Stream It or Skip It
STREAM IT! News Of the World isn’t the best film in the genre as it does miss out on some elements that would have added more dark colours to the film making it more time relatable but there is no denying that the film is still watch-worthy due to its craft and execution skills. The film stands a great chance and watch-value due to great acting, cinematography, well-chalked out landscapes, and sound-scores.
News Of the World is now streaming on Netflix.
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