It wasn't unreasonable for me to be properly excited for News of the World. The newest Hollywood western, and the first new theatrical release in about five months that felt worth taking a trip to the cinema to see, News of the World had two big talents on board: star Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass. If there were anyone to put a little blind faith in, it would be two men behind some of the great films of the last three decades. The Greengrass-Hanks pairing, so fruitful in Captain Phillips, is, however, pretty barren in their second outing. News of the World is a considerable disappointment from these two great artists.
Based on the novel by Paulette Jiles, News of the World is simplistic to a fault. Tom Hanks is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who currently makes a living reading newspapers to busy townspeople in a sort of theatrical storytime across the country. Kidd stumbles one day upon an orphaned German girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel). Johanna was taken in by Kiowa Indians as a youngin' and has completely assimilated to their ways. Kidd figures out that she needs to be transported to her surviving German relatives, and Kidd... takes her there. That's the story for ya. Cross country road trips are not new to the Western genre, but Jiles' story strikes me as unusually thin. The attempts to create tension along the way are woeful. At two separate points along the trail, two separate groups of men show up out of nowhere just to announce to Kidd, in so many words, that they will be the bad guys for the next bit. Obviously, these characters aren't the important ones. Kidd and Johanna are.
Their relationship is the centerpiece, and I can't really fault it. Hanks, the ever-reliable professional, rolls up his sleeves and says his lines with conviction as he always does. Zengel has an appropriate look; she isn't an annoying little cutie or smug growler as so many movie kids are these days, and she gives a good performance. I might even call it impressive. A scene or two or three of their growing bond hits home. These are the moments when you can see that director Greengrass kind of knows what he's doing.
Elsewhere, things aren't as pretty. Greengrass' reputation is with visceral shaky cameras and documentary-style filmmaking. That's not what News of the World needs, and it's not exactly what the movie is. But Greengrass is no hack. He's also one of the preeminent masters of immediacy and excitement. Those qualities are what I miss. That is what is glaringly lacking with the approach he brings to News of the World. This isn't a United 93-esque docudrama, brimming with that sort of intensity. News of the World is a traditional story and it is shot like a traditional "movie". Just not as painterly or carefully composed as some. However, the only thing that directorial restraint creates is a limp, boring visual look. I think I would have respected a full lean into documentary authenticity here, or conversely, a full lean into John Ford-ian grandeur, but what we get instead is a hesitant attempt to be a little (but not too much) different from Greengrass' other works. For the most part, it's soft-focused, claustrophobic and close-up heavy, with only the occasional drone shot to highlight some dull Texan exteriors. Weaksauce. There's a way to envelope an audience in verisimilitude that Greengrass has perfected in his oeuvre (make it tight, immediate, suspenseful), and there's a way to do it on a giant canvas (look at the pictorial magnificence of something like Dances with Wolves). Greengrass and his cinematographer do neither with News of the World. You can't just point a camera at a beautiful landscape and have it transport the viewer there.
Nothing grabs in News of the World. Tom Hanks is out there doing his thing, but is Captain Kidd really an interesting character? Is Hanks' performance anything special? No. The story is blah, the filmmaking is blah. It's very strange to see Paul Greengrass so lackadaisical. He seems uninterested in the material, and why shouldn't he be? The material is uninteresting. But still, there was something to salvage here. I mentioned that father-daughter relationship. It works on its own, in those individual scenes. But I trusted these filmmakers to come at it with a considered point of view. To put some kind of spin on it. To find something worthwhile in there. That didn't happen. What a shame.
News of the World
Action / Adventure / Drama / Western
News of the World
Action / Adventure / Drama / Western
Five years after the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a veteran of three wars, now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. On the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she's never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
January 14, 2021 at 02:49 PM