Synopsis: Five years after the end of the Civil War, Capt. Jefferson Kyle 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.
News of the world is the latest movie by the director Paul Greengrass and based on the 2016 novel by the same name by the author Paulette Jiles. But it is also one of the few movies with big names that were actually released in 2020. But like most things in 2020, not even with some big names involved, was this movie a commercial success. Looking beyond that, is it a great movie that was released with bad timing, or just an ok movie? Well, let’s talk about it.
A change of pace
Most of the biggest names in the box office are usually those with huge special effects, tons of action, and a huge budget. But News of the World doesn’t have any of those things going for it. Instead, it is a more human drama based set in 1870.
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) a veteran of the Confederate infantry, after the end of the Civil War he has found new ways to make a living. As he travels from town to town he reads the newspaper to people who can’t read. But he’s also a storyteller of real-life events, and telling the stories of wars, kingdoms, presidents, catastrophes, and more.
While traveling the plains of Texas, he finds Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old girl that was taken by the Kiowa tribe and raised as one of their own. Even though her parents have been killed, they are taking her back to her biological aunt, but this is a new and different world for her. Captain Kidd agrees to take her home, and while traveling the many miles through the wilderness they both learn a lot from each other. And both come to a sense that they are actually looking for a place they belong, a place they can truly call home.
Does it really work?
News of the World is a full-blown drama, with glances of action and survival moments, but even then it is all seen through the human lens. Most of the movie happens in the dialogues as they try to communicate and learn from each other. This means there’s also a lot of self-improvement and understanding.
The reception from the critics was mostly positive, and after all, it’s one of those award-aiming movies. But even with the great acting and nice script, the movie falls a bit short on keeping it entertaining or even interesting for that matter. It’s not something you can watch many times without letting some times pass to digest it. And not because of how deep it is, but because of how slowly it unfolds.
Sure, western movies aren’t usually packed with action, but when you add that most of the action in the film is dramatic and through the dialogues, it makes it really slow. You have to be really in the mood to watch this movie so that you can truly enjoy it. Cinematography is alright, but there’s a lot of wasted opportunities, and so is the soundtrack element. It doesn’t feel as if the movie falls together nicely, but more as if most of it was an afterthought. Overall it’s not a bad movie by any means, but it isn’t a good one either.