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News Of The World (2020)e   rating

Review: written Mar 2021

Quiet and unassuming, thought-provoking classic

News Of The World (2020)

Tom Hanks’ first Western is, as you might expect, a thoughtful and intelligent affair. Peter Greengrass might be known for his Bourne movies, but it’s his documentary work that seems to feed this story. Gone are the whiplash editing and handheld camera for authenticity – in its place is an excellent cast and steady compelling camerawork which leads you into a beautiful and yet daunting landscape. It doesn’t take long for the assured direction and faultless performances from all involved to make you fully engaged in believing this simple story. Simple on the surface at least.

In an America which is at odds with itself, post Civil War, Hanks plays a Civil War veteran who stumbles across a young German immigrant girl who has been captured by the native Kiowa tribe and raised as Kiowa. Her original family were killed by the native Americans, and now her Kiowa family are killed by the cavalry – she has, as someone in the movie observes, been orphaned twice. Hanks agrees to take her back to her closest remaining relatives. What follows is an episodic journey across a divided America, with vignettes exploring the idea of different elements of society being pitched against each other: the recent Civil war has left a Blue against Gray prejudice; the war is also discussed as a war of the rich fought by the poor; there are those who seek to create insular societies where they can control the population through fake news to stay outside the law (sound familiar or topical..?); even the immigrants versus the native Americans are a lens of division.

News Of The World (2020)

In the middle of all this, Hanks character delivers the truth – he upends the fake news, and seeks to bring about calm through telling the truth from elsewhere in the world through newspaper readings, to bring hope where there are reasons aplenty to despair. His motivations only become clearer as the movie develops, and reveal his own torn identity – a man who struggles with who he was before the war and what he feels the war made him. It is that sincerity which brings him and the young girl closer together. And it’s not just Hanks that oozes sincerity, Helena Zengel as the young girl is absolutely believable in a difficult role to make compelling without crossing into cliché.

The pace is measured, cinematography striking, music perfectly pitched for the material, and while it doesn’t aim or achieve anything like excitement or thrills, It delivers a powerful message which is ultimately one of hope, of triumph of inclusivity over polarisation of society, told with note perfect performances and direction which always puts the story first. This movie completely won me over, and I’ve been thinking about it in the few days since I watched it. Catch this while you can, on as big a screen as you can, turn down the lights, and let yourself be immersed in good, old fashioned accomplished storytelling at its best.

News Of The World (2020)

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