Flickering with hope throughout but never truly blazing
NEWS OF THE WORLD (2020)
Paul Greengrass doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to creating riveting cinema apart from the Bourne franchise, and even that series struggled to hold the flame it once held after the third entry. News of the World falls into the same trap that a typical Greengrass film does, and that's struggling to keep the flame ignited the entire way through, flickering with hope throughout but never truly blazing.
Greengrass has created a western that’s an excruciatingly slow burn, with glimmers of tense confrontations littered throughout. Westerns made today struggle to capture the wonder of the time period and the gritty nature of the world. Where there’s a The Hateful Eight, there’s a Jane Got A Gun, and News of the World compares more to the latter. There’s something too modern looking about the approach Greengrass took with News of the World that entirely removes the audience from the setting the director is attempting to create. The action, although very minimal, is well handled and adds an extra thrill to the otherwise dull story.
Following Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd as he travels across the great state of Texas reading the latest news to the people willing to hear, he is suddenly burdened with a stranded young girl and her safe delivery to the only family she’s got left. The film is a solid two hour yawn, taking pauses between travels to get into altercations; whether it be a shootout or a hostage situation, the film tries to keep you enthralled in the story but manages to just help draw it out for longer than necessary.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Tom Hanks is fantastic, although much more laid back than a typical Hanks performance; consisting primarily of monotone back and forth conversations between himself and Helena Zengel’s Johanna. Zengel is a German actress, who is still fairly new to the acting scene, although becoming the youngest actress ever in 2019 to win “Best Performance in a Leading Role” at the German Film Awards. Johanna speaks her native tongue throughout the film, learning German and English along their lengthy journey. With the lack of successful communication, you’d think that the film would fall apart from a lack of chemistry between the two leads, but Hanks and Zengel play off one another well and create a fellowship worth rooting for. Put aside our leads and every other character is easily disposable, with most taking only minutes of screen time before disappearing entirely. The villains are the worst here, crafting tense traps for the duo to fall into, but their sinister nature is highly predictable and makes it easy for the viewer to process just how the two may escape.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Greengrass’s visual representation of the Texas frontier is bleak and dull to view. The costume designs properly represent the types of characters being dealt with; examples include Johanna’s ratty clothing from her previous lifestyle and the Captain’s transition from his daily clothing into his professional attire for his nightly readings. Even with appropriate attire, the film is a snooze - failing to appeal with its bland color pallet.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
James Newton Howard is a tremendous composer, and his scores in even the least favorable of films are salvageable. His composition adds a sense of danger and tenseness to the surroundings of the south and makes the long journey, without any opposition, calm. Without context it’s not a score to seek out and listen to, and it’s certainly no The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but it fits well with the film at hand.
News of the World won’t be at the top of anyone’s list when asked to name a Tom Hanks feature, and in fact for many this film will fly entirely under the radar. The dynamic chemistry between Hanks and Zengel propels the film much farther than it should, with a grand amount of moments playing out like clockwork. Despite the leading talent, Paul Greengrass's film is a slog and manages to be instantly forgettable; not because it’s a bad film per-say, but because there’s nothing noteworthy to be taken from the experience.
NEWS OF THE WORLD will open theatrically on Friday, December 25th