(film review)

A gray-bearded man in a Stetson, with a six-shot revolver and his own horses. Who is he? A cowboy, a militiaman or just a thug? Not at all, he is a publisher! Read more about how the Wild West forced the publisher to change a newspaper for a gun and what other surprises it prepared!

“News of the world” is a 2020 American Western drama based on the 2016 novel of the same name by writer Paulette Jiles. The film is shot by famous English director Paul Greengrass, more famous American actor Tom Hanks starred, and 12-year-old German Helena Zengel obtained her first international debut.

Texas, 1870. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an American Civil War veteran (Tom Hanks), earns his living by traveling from town to town and reading latest newspaper issues. In the past, he has published them himself, but the war buried his business. Of course, life is tough enough, but at least it is. Kidd gathers crowds in taverns and earns 10 cents for each listener. He is saving up coins to finally return home, but…

But one day he spots an overturned wagon and finds a scared 10-year-old fair-skinned girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel), raised by already dead Indians.

You’ve been living with them since they kidnapped you, when they attacked your family… six years prior… mother, father and sister were… Well, they passed,” Kidd read the Johanna’s agency papers with a trembling voice.

The graybeard also finds out that the girl has an aunt and uncle, but at the other end of Texas. Seeing that no one else will care about her, he decides to deliver the girl.

Kidd and Johanna will face downpours, sandstorms, hundreds of miles under the scorching Texas sun, and worst of all, moral freaks ready to shoot for a whiskey bottle. Will the grumbling graybeard and the dumb girl get along and resist outer threats?

“News of the World” has two strengths. The first is the accomplished work of production designer David Crank and director of photography Dariusz Wolski. Their creative decisions turned out to be very successful. Dusty cowboy clothes, rough sewed Indian costumes, full of holes wagons, country style lamps, saloons with any kind of booze — all this, combined with good shots, gives a unique atmosphere of the Wild West.

The second strength is a character development. Over time, Kidd and Jordan begin to understand each other even without words. The peak of their mutual understanding occurs when the graybeard is interested in: “‘Sehr gut, Onkel.’ You just spoke German… Can you remember anything else? What else can you remember?”

Johanna is silent at first, then tears appear in her eyes. Kidd is impressed by this view to the depths of his heart, and he says: “Oh, dear God… You just leave that… Forget it. I guess we both have demons to face, going down this road.”

So, the film acquires certain dynamics and the character relationship is not boring to watch.

However, the significant drawback of “News of the World” is the plot. Paul Greengrass, having on hand the novel necessary to shot, failed to fit into the timing. In many scenes there is a certain understatement, as if something important is missed (there are scenes that can be removed, though). Because of this, the story is not perceived as something holistic and therefore does not evoke the necessary emotions and experiences.

The characters are mostly typical; they do not have their own features. The protagonist is ready for self-sacrifice, the small girl is sharp as a needle and, of course, villains love to chat before killing someone.

The concept “so-called-father and orphan-potential-daughter” is not original. It seems that “News of the World” is the same “Logan”, but transferred to a Western.

All these factors make me write “the plot has disappointed me.”

Despite my angry comments, the film received fairly high marks from both critics and viewers. So, website “Rotten Tomatoes” gave him 7.4/10, “Metacritic” gave 73/100, and “CinemaScore” gave “B+”. At the same time, the Google form claims that “News of the World” was liked by 85% of viewers.

What is my assessment? As much as I like the vibe of the film, but I cannot ignore the poor plot and gray characters. So, I can only put 3/5.

See, Paul Greengrass?! It’s your fault as a director. Try better next time!

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