News of the World

By Joanna Langfield

Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass reteam to tell us news of a tumultuous American post Civil War world that echoes in today’s. While their efforts are visibly impressive, this historical warning may fall on deaf ears.

Hanks, solid as ever, stars as Captain Kidd, a veteran of the war that divided the United States, who now travels the Texas plains, reading to gathered crowds from newspapers. Kidd knows how to hold his audience, dressing and interpreting as any newsman might, with a combination of authority and performance. But, when he comes upon a stranded little girl, a white child who had been taken in by an Indian tribe and raised as one of their own, Kidd feels obligated to not just read the news, but to make some of his own.

Based on Paulette Jiles’s novel, one could watch this dusty western as a story onto itself. But it’s hard to ignore it as a parable for what is happening in our world right now, with racism, violence, and wary citizenry, all still teetering after a war that almost killed the American democracy.  No matter how potent, for some, this may hit a little too close to home, where we can flip the channel and watch pundits from all sides give us their news, some with less finesse than Hanks. But there’s a vital message here, the old “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”. And while Greengrass makes that point clear, his film, as a piece, never taps into an urgency that might have thrilled, or at least reached an audience receptive to it. The film looks great, Hanks and his young co-star, Helena Zengel, are tops, but it just doesn’t reach the depth that could have made it emotionally resonant and profound.