<script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script> <!-- Showbiz Portal Bottom 1 300x250, created 10/15/10 --> <ins class="adsbygoogle" style="display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px" data-ad-client="ca-pub-1272644781333770" data-ad-slot="2530175011"></ins> <script> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </script>
Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 8, 2021




‘NEWS OF THE WORLD’ is an old fashioned western about a girl who is kidnapped as an infant by Native Americans and grew up with their tribe. 

This reminds us of “The Searchers”, a 1956 movie directed by John Ford starring John Wayne as a Civil War veteran who searches for his niece abducted by what was then simply called Indians, before we became politically correct. 

It’s unforgettable for us and it’s considered as one of the best westerns ever made. Natalie Wood played Wayne’s niece before she became a big star in such films as “West Side Story”, “A Splendor in the Grass” and “Love with the Proper Stranger”.

“News of the World” is set in 1870 and Tom Hanks plays Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Confederate veteran of the U.S. Civil War which ended 5 years ago. 

He now earns a living traveling from one Texas town to another reading  newspapers to the town’s people who want to hear the latest news at a time when there is no radio or TV, mixing entertainment with his storytelling skills. The people drop some coins in a can to pay him as the 1800s equivalent of today’s TV news anchors.

While traveling in the woods, he meets a 10-year old blonde girl (Helena Zengel, discovered from the acclaimed German film, “System Crasher”) wearing Indian clothes. 

Her black guardian has been killed and in her documents, Kidd learns she is of German descent and her real name is Johanna. 

She was kidnapped as an infant by the Kiowa tribe. But now, the Indian folks who raised her have died and she is being returned to her surviving aunt and uncle in Texas. It becomes Kidd’s task to escort the child, who doesn’t speak English, so there’s a serious language barrier between them. 

Luckily, an innkeeper friend (Elizabeth Marvel) knows how to talk Kiowa and is able to communicate with Joanna. They try to make the girl more civilized by giving her contemporary clothes, teaching her how to eat with spoon and fork. The girl slowly opens up and Kidd hears her singing Kiowa songs. 

This becomes a road movie as they travel across the huge state of Texas. As may be expected, they are exposed to various dangers along the way, including a nasty sandstorm. Three criminals they meet want to get the girl from Kidd who refuses to give her off. 

The bad guys pursue them in the rocky wilderness and Kidd has to fight back. Johanna helps him and they bond well as they protect their own lives. They really live in very dangerous times as America is stil unstable after the Civil War. 

Soldiers of the winning Union patrol towns and are generally resented by the people down south who are not that eager to be part of the United States. Post-bellum reconstruction is marred by bands of brigands who have ideas of their own. 

Kidd and his ward run into a camp of renegades who ruthlessly kill and skin buffaloes. The leader wants to kill Kidd but, with the help of Johanna, they were able to save themselves. 

Along the way, their wagon is demolished in an accident and they have to go on traveling by foot. They finally reach the farm of Johanna’s relatives and if you think this gives the film a happy ending, you have another think coming.

The film is based on the novel by Paulette Giles and directed by Paul Greengrass who is best known for his Jason Bourne actioners known for its shaky handheld camera shots (“Bourne Ultimatum” is the best.) 

This is his second movie with Tom Hanks after “Captain Phillips”, where Hanks played a merchant mariner held hostage by Somali pirates.

Greengrass avoids his trademark handheld cinematography to come up with a beautifully photographed Western showing rugged but beautiful terrain filmed with panoramic drone shots. The film is fast paced and has some true suspenseful and tense moments. 

The acting by the two leads is both outstanding, just like John Wayne and Kim Darby in “True Grit”. 

Zengel could have overplayed the feral child act but she wisely underacts, avoiding sentimentality and being pa-cute, investing the role with a right mixture of toughness and vulnerability. This is a terrific Hollywood debut for her.

She has great rapport with Tom Hanks, who matches her scene-stealing role with his familiar aura of decency, compassion and dignity. 

The scene before the ending where he visits his former home with his late wife in San Antonio, and then he goes to her grave, really tugs at the heartstrings, making the film a truly satisfying and enjoyable watch.