News of the World - B+
Rated PG-13, 117 minutes
The moving new western "News of the World" brings together acclaimed director Paul Greengrass (The "Bourne" movies and "United 93") with Oscar-winner Tom Hanks in an entertaining, well-acted adaptation of Paulette Jiles' best-selling novel.
Five years after the end of the Civil War, widowed newsman and Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) and crosses paths with a 10-year-old girl named Johanna (newcomer Helena Zengel, excellent here) taken by the Kiowa people. Forced to return to her aunt and uncle, Kidd agrees to escort the child across the harsh and unforgiving plains of Texas. However, the long journey soon turns into a fight for survival as the traveling companions encounter danger at every turn -- both human and natural.
"News of the World" is a compelling account of an unconventional relationship between a man and a young girl who he knows nothing about, and how they're ultimately forced to rely upon each other for survival. Directed and co-written by Greengrass and Oscar-nominated "Lion" screenwriter Luke Davies, this seems an unusual film choice for Greengrass, who is more accustomed to urban dramas or spy thrillers, but he and Hanks make it worth, namely because of the warm chemistry between Hanks and young newcomer Zengel, a German actress, in her first American film.
It's also aided by strong production values, with lush photography from "Pirates of Caribbean's" Dariusz Wolski, memorable dramatic music by prolific composer James Newton Howard ("The Hunger Games" series among many others) that adds some dramatic heft to the proceedings, as well as realistic sets and costumes. A tense shootout mid-film is among its most memorable, though Hanks brings it again in a final couple of emotional scenes that will require a few tissues.
Down the stretch, as with many Westerns, "News of the World" doesn't pull out many surprises from its hat, but it delivers a touching, powerful story about family and sacrifice. It's definitely worth a look for another strong Hanks performance.