Movie #73 2021: News of the World (2020)

The best thing about movies is when you fully expect to be underwhelmed by one and end up being pleasantly surprised by it. On this most unlikely occasion, I can safely say that News of the World was exactly that for me.

Twice Golden Globe nominated, the film stars Tom Hanks as the co-lead with young star of the future, Helena Zengel. Hanks plays a Texas man who travels across the south reading global and nationwide news to local townspeople. Sounds horrifically tedious, right? Actually… wrong! This is obviously not just two hours of Tom Hanks reading newspapers, although that is definitely something I wouldn’t be mad about watching. His character one day comes across a young, very blonde girl who has been raised by Native Americans and speaks absolutely no English. The pair of them then quickly form a bond and undertake a tumultuous trip across the country together to get the girl back to her blood kin.

I’ll admit, the start of the film is a little rocky. Basically, I wish I was as kind as Tom Hanks, because to me this kid is the epitome of fucking annoying when we first meet her. (Yes, I know she’s been through a lot and she gets a lot better as it goes along but I am far too impatient for that type of torture.) From there though, everything slowly trundles along and it becomes a full on neo-Western.

Now, let it be known that Westerns are not my favourite by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe because I’m a Brit, I just don’t connect to them whatsoever nine times out of ten. However, adding Hanks to a film of this genre immediately makes it more interesting and when it comes down to it, this is about human connection that you can relate to no matter where you’re from geographically. Yes, this is another great performance from Hanks – the emotion in his eyes is an acting masterclass – but Zengel is the true star of the film and this movie (along with her previous film System Crasher) will no doubt catapult her to the heights of fame.

As you can probably tell, I’m actually quite chuffed that Helena Zengel was nominated for a Golden Globe after seeing News of the World. She’s extremely talented, that’s for sure, and to do a film in a language she is less fluent in is really courageous for an actor of her age. 

Though there’s nothing that hasn’t been done before here, there are moments of excellent tension-building and some really anxiety-inducing shooty shooty scenes. (I believe that’s the technical term.) This is also a pretty decent example of good storytelling – I was fully invested in what was going on, and it was pretty well paced once it got going, even if it’s ultimately too long in minutes.

I don’t know, I feel like I enjoyed this more than most, but perhaps that’s because I expected so little from it. It ended up being really well made with a great soundtrack, and its story was endearing and quite lovely.

Maybe the trick here is to lower your expectations and just enjoy the ride.

News of the World is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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