There are different ways to think about this film. At it’s heart, it is a Western in just about every sense of the world. More on the True Grit sort of the scale than Magnificent Seven, but you get the idea. But it’s also an echo of today in surprising and disturbing ways. Let’s just say there is nothing about this movie that will improve your opinion of the south generally or Texas specifically. News of the World is a reminder of what division in a country really means and how bias and prejudice can poison people.
But, of course, all of that is backdrop to the main story of Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). He’s a Civil War vet wandering the country, coming to terms with his life and deeds. Hanks is the perfect choice for this man who can (mostly) talk his way out of anything with a calm demeanor and kind heart. And then into his path drops the young and abandoned Helena Zengel. From there you can probably write the story yourself; there really aren’t many surprises. Despite the predictability the two work wonderfully together and you can’t help but invest in their partnership as they knock up against all manner of issues.
I can’t say I really loved this film. Paul Greengrass (Jason Bourne ) delivered exactly what he wanted: a period Western with a modern sort of undertone. He and Luke Davies (Beautiful Boy) produced a script with a veiled message about as subtle as a brick. But, the real challenge for me is that I am not a fan of Westerns because of the kind of characters and situations they include to begin with. A movie that leans into that is going to distance me from the start, regardless of message.
My personal bias aside, Greengrass gives you beautiful vistas and gritty reality. Even as part of the genre, it manages to rise a bit above. If you’re a Hanks fan, you’ll also not be disappointed by the man’s quiet control and power on screen. And the young Zengel has been provided a platform to really show her potential. Whether it’s worth your time or not is going to have to be your decision.