Thursday, March 25, 2021

Movie review: Don't miss News of The World

I think I am right when I say News of the World is one of the best movies I have seen in a very, very long time. The story is deceptively simple: a task that must be performed but one that turns into a dangerous mission. “
In 1870, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former member of the Confederate Army who served in the 3rd Texas Infantry, makes a living traveling town to town reading newspapers for the populace for ten cents per person. Following an evening of news reading, setting out for his next location, Kidd finds an overturned wagon on the road. Investigating, he finds the body of a Black soldier and a young White girl named Johanna, dressed in Native American clothing. After an encounter with a Union Army patrol, Kidd is instructed to take the girl to Union officials at a checkpoint in a town up the road where they will sort out her Bureau of Indian Affairs paperwork and return her to her surviving family. Reluctantly, Kidd acquiesces to the request.” (Wikipedia)

Difficulties include delays in the bureaucratic red tape, with young Johanna (who speaks no English) refusing to accept being returned to her remaining family, instead yearning for the Native American family that took her in. Kidd and Johanna (movingly performed by Helena Zengel) are tracked by men who want to traffic the startlingly beautiful golden-haired, blue-eyed child, ending in a fight to the death. They meet the self-styled leader of a radical band of militia and have to talk and then fight their way out of a perilous situation. Life was hard and dangerous for anyone on the road.

If you think this is just Tom Hanks playing Sully meets The Magnificent Seven, think again. Yes, Hanks is a consummate and appealing actor, and he brings the right amount of gravitas and authenticity to the role, but it is more than that. He becomes Kidd so that while watching, you don’t see Hanks; you see Kidd. The relationship develops between two lost, lonely, and broken people. Kidd has his own personal story as Johanna has hers. Director Paul Greengrass surprises with a slow-moving but not ponderous, beautifully filmed, socially relevant (without ramming wokery down your throat) story. You will cry when Joanna cries for her adopted people, moving inexorably away across the river, disappearing into the mists. I wanted to know more about their plight. Of course, the film touches only briefly on many issues of the time, including the treatment of the Native American people uprooted by the invaders; the tensions of post-Civil War that still simmered and festered; and the surprising discovery that news travelled slowly and had to be sent through laborious means.

The acting is superb. I was pleased to see Mare Winningham make a cameo appearance. I first saw Hanks and Winningham play together in Turner and Hooch. Every single character, small or large, important or seemingly irrelevant, plays a vital role. The audiences gathered in the town’s biggest hall, cheering at good news and gasping at bad news, personified the era perfectly. The photography was stunning, taking the viewer right into the scenes. The pace was just right for every scene. Yes, I think this is the best movie I have ever seen, and I am sorry it did not smash the box office like some of the utter tripe that passes for entertainment now. A beautiful film about important issues. Don’t miss it. Very highly recommended!

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