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Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel make ‘News of the World’ a compelling experience

“News of the World” (US Rated PG-13)

Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Angelo Covino

Genre: Western/Drama, Adventure

Dwight’s Rating:

Tom Hanks is in a new movie!

What more do you need to know? Does the premise even really matter?

As long as Tom Hanks is a part of the journey, I’m prepared to go along for the ride.

Can you even remember the last time he was in a total bomb? And even if the film isn’t all that special, he will still no doubt be worth watching.

Whether it’s goofball comedy, intense drama, adventure, romance or animation, impersonations or accents, cameos or just him talking to a volleyball for nearly two and a half hours (remember Wilson and “Cast Away”?), this personable actor can seemingly do it all.

He is the Jimmy Stewart or Jack Lemmon of our time. (And if you don’t know who they are, shame on you! And do yourself a favor, and get to know those acting legends!)

And as such, the new Western drama “News of the World” could have been Tom Hanks reading a newspaper for a couple hours, and I would have watched it.

Actually, he is indeed reading newspapers quite a bit in the movie. It’s five years after the United States (US) Civil War, and his character, US Civil War veteran Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, now makes a living moving from town to town reading various newspapers from around the country for the townspeople – bringing new meaning to the term social media.

Capt. Kidd crosses paths with a 10-year-old girl taken by the Kiowa people. Forced to return to her aunt and uncle, Kidd agrees to escort the child across the harsh and unforgiving plains of Texas. However, the long journey soon turns into a fight for survival as the traveling companions encounter danger at every turn – both human and natural.

This must be the 50th time Hanks has played a “captain” of some sort in a movie. In fact, “News of the World” represents a reunion with Hanks and director (and co-writer) Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy”, “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Jason Bourne”), who directed Hanks as the title character in the thrilling “Captain Phillips”.

Hanks is his usual amazing self. He’s teamed here with a young German actress with a bright future, 12-year old Helena Zengel. For most of the film, it’s the just the two of them, and they don’t speak the same language, and they encounter a whole lot of weirdos and interesting characters, with unfortunate incidents and frightening perils along the way.

While it doesn’t exactly break any new ground, and feels like a much less graphic and less intense, more family friendly-ish “The Revenant”, and may remind you of any number of adventure journey tales, Hanks’ trademark warmth, and the vulnerability expressed by both he and Zengel, work together to make this a very, very compelling experience.

“News of the World” has no shortage of edge of your seat, intense action moments. Plus, as stated earlier, there’s a bunch of unsavory misfits as well. And Capt. Kidd and the actual kid seem to run into them all. If you think we’ve got a lot of strange people out and about in 2021, be thankful you weren’t around in postbellum USA.

But you say: “I don’t like Westerns!”

Just hush! That’s ridiculous – no entire genre of movies can be entirely bad (not even all Kung Fu movies!). You just haven’t watched the many fantastic ones.

And regardless, it’s got Tom Hanks!


• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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