Movie Review: News of the World

Movie Review: News of the World


Genre: Western

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 118 mins.

Where Can You See It?: In Theaters & Premium Video on Demand (PVOD)

Premise: A civil war veteran (Tom Hanks) who travels around America reading the “news of the world” to various townsfolk, encounters a young girl (newcomer Helena Zengel) who was abducted by Native Americans, and is left with no choice but to return her to her last remaining family.

Behind-the-Scenes: Based on the 2016 novel of the same name written by Paulette Jiles. Released theatrically by Universal on December 25, and by Netflix internationally. Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy & Ultimatum) and Hanks previously teamed up on 2013’s Captain Phillips, where Hanks was egregiously deprived of a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

The Good: Nice to have Greengrass ditch the “shaky cam” style of directing he’s been so fond of his whole career in favor of a more classical style of storytelling. It suits him well. News of the World is definitely a relaxed film, not in any real rush, but that sort of fits the Western genre. Hanks is reliably great in a role that seems to have been tailor-made for Kevin Costner, and Zengel makes an impressive debut, standing toe-to-toe with Hanks in every scene. Like any Western worth its salt, the cinematography (by Dariusz Wolski) is gorgeous, and James Newton Howard’s score is stirring. Maybe I just have The Mandalorian on the brain, but there are a ton of similarities between the core story hooks of that Disney+ show and this film.

The Bad: Impatient viewers may find the film too much of a slow burn. I usually fall in that camp, but I guess I have different expectations of pacing in a Western, so was quicker to forgive this one. There’s not a ton of action. Could have used a few more scenes to quicken the pulse, but a shootout set amid a rocky mountain does stand out as a highlight.

Should You See It?: Yes. This is the kind of mid-budget, glossy studio flick that seems in such rare supply these days – worth seeing so we can get more like it! Fans of Westerns and Hanks completists will enjoy it more than most. Not worth the $19.99 rental fee though, so I would wait a few weeks until it goes down to a $5.99 price point.

Star Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars

Better Than: Greyhound

Worse Than: Captain Phillips

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