Movie Review: News of the World (2020)

TL;DR – an American Civil War veteran commits to returning a young girl raised by a Kiowa tribe to her last remaining family.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Having just written a book review on Lincoln the Unknown by Dale Carnegie, it was coincidental that I stumbled upon News of the World which follows Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a Civil War veteran, who travels from town to town reading stories from newspapers in front of audiences who pay a dime a person. It’s a stark contrast to today where we can obtain the world’s news with a touch on our mobile devices.

Set in 1870, five years after the Civil War, the south has not recovered from the ravages of war and the nation is still going through reconstruction. The story follows Kidd on a road between towns, encountering an overturn wagon with a lynched black freedman hanging from a tree and finding a young white girl named Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) hiding in the bush speaking in Kiowa. Kidd discovers that Johanna has been orphaned twice over; her birth parents killed in a Kiowa raid, and subsequently her Kiowa family releasing her from captivity to the black freedman. After a couple of attempts to unload Johanna and make her someone else’s problem, Kidd commits to taking her to her remaining family, an aunt and uncle who live near San Antonio.

Based on the book of the same name by Paulette Jiles, Director Paul Greengrass has created a movie rich in detail of a time when the aftermath of war has left many wounds; some open and unable to heal, others festering, and some that have scarred over and never forgotten. The film is ably supported by its strong cast led by Hanks in fine form and Zengel capturing well the lost look of a child trying to survive in a world of violence and hate. The cinematography is stunning and shows that it is not only the people you have to be wary of but also the weather itself.

At its heart though, this is a story about family, and how ultimately family is what is lost in war. What starts off as a lost girl being delivered by a war veteran, on a dangerous road to find home, ends with a war veteran who is just as lost and realises that home is with the ones you love. It’s a touching story with a heartfelt ending, and certainly in these isolating COVID times, it is a much needed reminder of what is important in life.

7.5 out of 10

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