Tom Hanks delivers yet another memorable performance in his legendary career, but Helena Zengel steals every scene in News of the World, which is a touching and moving feature, even if it’s a bit slow at times.
Similar to another 2020 film starring Tom Hanks called Greyhound, I feel News of the World came a bit out of nowhere. As big of a fan as I am of Hanks though, it doesn’t take much to bring myself to watch any film he’s in, regardless of what it looks like and how much recognition its receiving prior to its release. I saw it a bit after than most, but I always intended to see it, especially after seeing all the positive buzz about it. Another positive is Paul Greengrass directing. It’s his second time directing Hanks after the success of Captain Phillips. I also feel the first three Bourne films are some of the greatest action films ever created, so I’ll always support Greengrass and his future projects.
News of the World tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former member of the Confederate Infantry, who travels to different towns to tell the people who live in these towns the news, as long as they each pay 10 cents. Heading to the next place, he encounters a wrecked wagon in a forest and finds a young girl, who he later agrees to her back to her aunt and uncle in Texas. However, they encounter many struggles on the way and their relationship and bonds grows deep throughout the entire journey.
As usual, Hanks delivers a great performance. No matter how bad a movie may be, as long as Hanks is in it, it’s almost certain he isn’t the one responsible for it being bad. That’s simply the kind of performer Hanks has become throughout his entire career. He’s arguably the greatest actor in the history of cinema and he continues to add to his resume with News of the World. I can’t honestly say he adds something entirely new to his career with this portrayal of Kidd, but he’s extremely charismatic in certain scenes, especially when reading some of the news segments. But, he also shows different layers to the character, such as compassion, strength, resilience, and in some scenes, toughness.
So yes, he’s great, but as great as he is here, he isn’t the one that truly stood out. In fact, it’s his young co-star, Helena Zengel, who plays Cicada (or Johanna). Although she’s a white young girl in the movie, her upbringing is Native American since a tribe raised her, so she acts a bit differently than you’d think. She’s very curious about everything and Zengel truly brings that curiosity to life, making her portrayal incredibly convincing to the viewer. She almost seems interested with absolutely everything she’s surrounded by, which sometimes translates to comedic moments in the film. As ignorant as she may be to some things going on around her, it doesn’t mean she isn’t intelligent, though. She’s actually very smart in many other ways, despite her understanding of the world. Johanna learns quite a bit from Kidd, but at the same time, he’s also learning plenty from her. Together, their bond grows stronger right before our eyes and it’s a joy to watch this father-daughter like relationship flourish.
Ultimately, that’s what this movie is all about and where it’s at its strongest. I can’t say it’s a home run from beginning to end since there are many slow moments. I won’t say it’s boring at any point in the film, but it definitely does drag sometimes. I think the trailers sort of gave me false expectations of the film, but I can’t say I’m disappointed since I’m content with the final product. The pay off makes the whole experience worth it and I’d recommend it to families who want to watch a feel-good film, which has become a staple of Hanks’ career. You’ll also see the kickstart of a future star in the making with Zengel, which I hope we see more of in projects to come.