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Non-Review Review: News of the World

News of the World is a gentle and sweet modern western, albeit more than a little disjointed.

Adapted from Paulette Jiles’ novel of the same name, News of the World is essentially an update on the classic western template exemplified by The Searchers. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a veteran of the Civil War who makes his living travelling through the Southern United States, reading the news to assembled crowds. On one journey, Kidd comes across a carriage that has been destroyed. Its driver has been killed, and its sole occupant – a young girl – abandoned.

“Jo, hanna! Time to go!”

Kidd determines that the young girl is named Johanna. She was taken from her parents when she was very young and raised by the Kiowa tribe. She was recently recovered, and the army is attempting to send her back to her last surviving relatives. Of course, with her escort killed and the Union forces scattered trying to manage Reconstruction, Kidd finds himself tasked with caring for the young woman and ferrying her across the nation to reunite her with her mother’s extended family.

There’s a surprising and endearing warmth to News of the World, which largely comes from casting Tom Hanks in the lead role. In some ways, this feels like the movie’s most telling update to that classic western formula, replacing John Wayne’s true grit with Tom Hanks’ hanksian decency. News of the World is perhaps a little too episodic and too uneven for its own good, occasionally feeling like a more mainstream counterpart to something like The Sisters Brothers, but it works largely thanks to the central performances of Tom Hanks and his co-star Helena Zengel.

Horsing around.

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