Hopefully, we are reaching the end of the plague tainted movie year. We totally missed another Tom Hanks film last year. “Greyhound,” a film set in the North Atlantic in WWII, skipped the theaters entirely and went straight to streaming. I still haven’t seen it. Hanks has two more movies coming out in 2021, “Bios,” a science fiction flick, and “Elvis” where he plays Col. Parker, the long-time manager of the iconic singer.
But right now, up on the big screen, we have “News of the World.” This Western has a very specific time and locale. Most of the westerns are more or less generic, they take place ‘out West’ in the ‘old days.’ “News of the World” takes place in the US Grant administration, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Hanks plays a Confederate veteran, eking out a tenuous living by reading news stories to isolated townsfolk in Texas. Capt. Kidd, the Hanks character, encounters a girl recently released from captivity by the Kiowa. She remembers little of her past or her birth language, thinking of herself as being a Kiowa. Johanna and Kidd make their way across Texas to find her only living relatives. On their journey, they encounter the worst of people in true Western movie tradition.
Young Helena Zengel, a 12-year-old German actress, plays Johanna, the freed captive. She has some terrific acting moments. But Hanks is the star. He has a quiet, subtle way of acting that still dominates the screen, filling it up. He delivers the expected Hanks decency and genuineness to his characterization of Capt. Kidd. Anything Hanks does is worth watching, and this is no exception.
Just in the last handful of years Hanks has given us stellar roles in “Captain Phillips,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Sully,” “Inferno,” “Toy Story 4,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and the mentioned “Greyhound.” He has six Oscar nominations and two wins so far. We should watch him when we get the chance.
Director Paul Greengrass made three “Jason Bourne” movies and directed Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.” As much as I enjoyed Helena Zengel’s performance, I think director Greengrass must have had a lot to do with her success.
Made on a Hollywood small budget of $32 million “News of the World” has brought in only about $4 million in the theaters. It is already out on direct streaming, but I don’t know the revenue numbers there. The PG-13 film runs for one hour and 58 minutes. The somewhat choppy film still manages three and a half sawblades.