News of the World

Tom goes west

A former Army captain in the post-Civil War Wild West makes a meager living traveling around reading newspapers to presumably illiterate townsfolk. Largely because he’s a decent and moral man in a savage world, he agrees to deliver a 10-year-old girl — kidnapped by the Kiowa six years earlier and “re-orphaned” when her tribe is wiped out — to her distant relatives in San Antonio. Along the way, the two lost souls rather unsurprisingly bond. 

Though the plot in this thoroughly “old fashioned” western (meant as a compliment) offers little that’s new, the film succeeds, and brilliantly, on the interaction between the two leads. No one does decent quite as well as Tom Hanks. (I was surprised to learn that this is his first western!) And Helena Zengel, who has only a few lines of dialogue and little of it in English, brings a riveting fierceness and gravitas to her portrayal. 

Though you wouldn’t call this an action picture, it’s never dull, and the occasional scenes of tense, blood-splattered violence are handled with fluidity and assurance. That might be because the director is Paul Greengrass, the man behind the “Bourne” movies. On Netflix. (118 min)

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