New Releases: News of the World (2020) - Reviewed


When I first read the synopsis and saw the trailer for News of the World, it checked all my boxes. Tom Hanks with a beard? Check. Another collaboration between Hanks and director Paul Greengrass? Check. Hanks collects newspapers and reads them aloud to townsfolk? Check. Side note: If that were still a job, you’d better believe I’d be first in line. My newspaper stacks cannot be contained. I have a problem. Enough about me. 

News of the World is a quiet, more introspective western that is concerned less with the tropes that typically populate the western genre, and instead is more focused on the good in people, as well as the power of storytelling. It might sound overly cheesy and sentimental, but in this case, it works quite well. Like the character played by Hanks – Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd – it is in no hurry and isn’t trying to be something it’s not. 

The Captain, to whom he is often referred, has been reading the news across different towns in northern Texas in 1870. The film opens in Wichita Falls, Texas, where after another reading, the Captain finds Johanna (Helena Zengel), a young girl who was captured by the Kiowa people at a very young age and who, after a series of tragedies, now has no home. The Captain reluctantly agrees to take her south to Castroville, Texas, in order find her only next of kin, her aunt and uncle, and thus their journey begins.



News of the World is a surprising departure from the claustrophobic action, handheld camera technique we’re used to seeing Greengrass employ in his work. There is a lot of restraint being shown here, even during the shootout at the film’s center, which serves as the film’s one major action set piece. It’s refreshing to see Greengrass use a style that goes against what he’s known for, and it makes the film that much better. 

Speaking of refreshing, I do not think there is a person out there who does not, in some way, love Hanks, myself included. I have seen him in too many roles lately where he is pushing against his own limitations; where he feels like he’s acting, rather than inhabiting the part. (His role as Ben Bradlee in The Post comes to mind.) Here, however, he plays the Captain just right. 

He is a Civil War veteran who is just trying to find his place in the world after feeling lost due to the horrors of war. He doesn’t see himself as much of a protector, but he wants to do right by Johanna, and the two of them form an unofficial father/daughter bond that hits you right in the feels. 



Zengel does a nice job conveying her emotions, as well as everything you need to know about her character, without the use of language. She does speak, but not in English, so she uses everything else at her disposal in order to get her point across. Hanks has never been a showy actor, nor would he ever try to steal a scene from anyone, which allows Zengel to shine.

There’s also an underlying message in the movie that feels especially relevant, given the current political climate in America, and that’s the trusting of facts along with the reading of legitimate news, and the importance of both. At one point the Captain risks his life to read factual newspapers as opposed to one printed by the self-appointed leader of a small town. It may be 1870 in the movie, but that scene feels very 2020, and rightfully so. 

One more thing about Hanks, since who knows when I’ll get to write about him again: On a very personal note, I grew up watching Turner & Hooch over and over again with my Grandma Julia. (It became a favorite of ours, to the point where to this day I still have pretty much every line memorized: “I’LL SHOOT YA, HOOCH. I’LL SHOOT YA! FIX HIM UP SO I CAN SHOOT HIM!”) 

Why am I mentioning Turner & Hooch, aside from the fact that it’s perfect? Hanks is briefly reunited with his Turner & Hooch co-star, Mare Winningham, in News of the World. It’s a small moment, but one that many probably would look past or not even think about. However, if there was one person who would appreciate the callout, it is my Grandma, who will forever be my partner in crime when it comes to loving Turner & Hooch

News of the World is good. It’s made even better by its supporting cast (including Winningham) but it’s an especially welcome reminder of just how good Hanks is as an actor. There’s nothing big or showy about his performance. He’s a man trying to do the right thing. In a year that has been especially challenging and devastating, this performance by Hanks, and the movie itself, feels especially necessary. It is an affirmation of hope and a testament to the good that exists in all of us. 

--Matt Giles