Paul Greengrass has had an eclectic career as director with a string of huge successes including the financially and critically successful The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum and the highly acclaimed Captain Phillips. Outside of these, his career has fluctuated somewhat with more middling reviews for his return to the Bourne series in Jason Bourne and 22nd July. Greengrass’ latest film the Western News Of The World sees him reteam with Captain Phillips leading man Tom Hanks in a post-Civil War tale following Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd who reads the news from town to town.
News Of The World follows Kidd’s journey across the state of Texas in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, on his travels, he comes across a girl named Johanna who had been travelling with a group of indigenous Americans and has been left alone. Kidd takes it upon himself to return Johanna to any family that might be left and the story largely revolves around the pair’s travels as they stop for Kidd’s news readings and encounter perils along the way.
The performances are one of the main draws and Tom Hanks is fantastic in a gruff wisened role in what is remarkably his first venture into the Western genre. Following hot on the heels of his role as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood this acts as a great showcase for his all-round ability and is one of his most action-packed roles since Captain Phillips. Much as this is a Tom Hanks film the true star of the show is arguably his young co-star Helena Zengel who is amazingly just 12 years old but more than holds her own with Hanks more than 50 years her elder, what’s more, amazing is this is her first international feature film and she looks set to have a bright future.
One of the areas of the film that has won particular praise is its Cinematography, the Western Genre has a history of producing some truly stunning films visually from Roger Deakin’s work on True Grit and The Assassination Of Jesse James to Sergio Leone’s Dollars films, this film is no different with Director Of Photography Dariusz Wolski creating some spellbinding visuals that show the scale of Kidd and Johanna’s journey and the beauty of the American South’s landscapes.
While less action-packed than Greengrass’s forays into the Bourne Franchise, the setpieces we do have in News Of The World are tense and riveting with a 10-minute shootout at the film’s midpoint one of the standout moments set against the harsh terrain, reminiscent in some ways of the Coen Brothers True Grit. This sequence shows that Greengrass is able to film action away from the Shaky-Cam genre he helped to invigorate and it is perhaps a shame there aren’t more sequences of this nature.
The film’s lack of story is made up for by its gorgeous imagery and the strength of its performances for the most part but it is perhaps lacking in urgency at points and its sedate pacing could perhaps put off viewers who are not fans of the genre and might be expecting a more action-filled film.
News Of The World doesn’t do anything radically different than what we might come to expect from the Western but it is a well-directed, gorgeously shot film that gets the best out of its two stars at polar opposite stages in their careers. Riding on many staples of the genre, this film is a fine contrast to some of Greengrass’ earlier work and his prior collaboration with Hanks on Captain Phillips. What the film lacks in narrative thrust it is more than able to make up for in heart-warming appeal and the quality of its cast and the sheer scale of its imagery. News Of The World might not go down as an all-time great in a genre that has produced some of the greatest films of all time but it is certainly worth seeking out for fans of the genre and Hanks, in particular, continuing his recent run of stellar roles.
Dir: Paul Greengrass
Scr: Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengal, Michael Covino, Fred Hechinger
Prd: Gary Goetzman, Gregory Goodman
DOP: Dariusz Wolski
Music: James Newton Howard
Runtime: 118 minutes
News of the World is available to watch on Netflix