News of the World review: visually stunning, poorly executed.

Beautiful landscapes are contrasted with faltering dialogue in the latest Paul Greengrass film

Dominic Hancock
16th February 2021
In my opinion, there are three key aspects that are vital to the success of any western film. These are; an odyssey-like journey, a demonstration of the untameable beauty of rural America, and, most of all, a central figure the viewer can support with ease. In the case of Netflix’s latest attempt at the genre, News of the World, the results are mediocre.

Along their travels, it is undeniable that the viewer is treated to a feast for the senses.

Directed and written by Paul Greengrass, the plot follows retired Confederate soldier turned travelling news-man Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) as he journeys across civil-war scarred Texas to return Johanna (Helena Zengel), a frontier girl adopted by Native Americans, to her remaining relatives. Along their travels, it is undeniable that the viewer is treated to a feast for the senses. The daunting expanse of rural Texas is beautifully captured and is accompanied by little to no soundtrack when the pair are outside an urban setting, thus further accentuating the area’s intimidating emptiness. Despite this, however, the confusing plot lacks direction. We are asked to care about characters we are never introduced to, such as Kidd’s wife - only seen in a picture - and the one 'good' villain, sex-trafficker Almay (Michael Angelo Covino), is swiftly disposed of in an admittedly suspenseful gunfight early in the film. 

This confusing plot, sadly, must be placed at the feet of lead man Tom Hanks. His dialogue often appears wooden and limited, something which could be accepted in a shorter film, but for nearly two hours? It simply doesn’t carry enough weight. Instead, the heroic presence is delivered by Helena Zegel, whose performance joins the likes of Dafne Keen’s in Logan (2017) portraying a strong, young, female lead. Other than this, News of the World proves watchable during a national lockdown, leaving us to wonder how successful it would be without a captive audience.

Rating: 3/5

Feature image credit: IMDb

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