News of the World reunites Tom Hanks with Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass for a western drama that is equal parts thrilling, riveting, and powerfully acted.
Hanks stars as Jefferson Kidd, a former Confederate soldier who makes his way from town to town providing news for the locals. When riding out for his next location, Kidd discovers a mute abandoned child (Helena Zengel) who was raised by Native Americans and Kidd decides reluctantly to take her under his wing.
The two encounter dangerous perils including a gunfight with three men who wanted to buy the girl, but Kidd refused. This gunfight earns its moments of tension largely due to Kidd's ingenuity and resourcefulness coupled with the girl's own abilities. Plus, it pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating at times.
The two continue to journey and along the way, Kidd decides to give up the girl for a couple, but she keeps running away and Kidd again reluctantly pursues her in order to keep her safe.
The performances by Hanks and Zengel are thoroughly engrossing as we see their bond together through the peril in which Hanks delivers a lot of backstory on his character while trying to establish a connection with his companion.
Zengel is also a discovery in this film with her performance being measured by the fact that she remains virtually mute save for her Native language and yet she encapsulates so much emotion that we feel so much for her despite her saying so little. It's a complex, nuanced performance that deserves tremendous recognition.
Greengrass directs this film in a splendid fashion as he showcases Western locales that look and feel familiar while being authentic simultaneously. Dairus Wolski's incredible cinematography further accentuates that believability by showcasing Western settings that look like the West instead of being artificial.
In its basic structure, News of the World reminded of Hanks' Road to Perdition. He plays a protagonist in a corner of history that has to protect a child through many dangers that could get them both killed and yet they learn to adapt and bond to their circumstances and surroundings along the way.
Based on the novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, News of the World is truly one of the year's best films.
(Rated PG-13 for thematic material, some language, disturbing images, and violence.)
This review is dedicated to the memory of my father James David Hall.