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Film Review: News of the World (2021)

IMDb Link: News of the World (2020)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Tom Astor
Based on: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Synopsis: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.

It is refreshing to see a film in this day and age go back to the Western genre. Whilst I will admit to not being the biggest fan of Westerns myself, it is nice to see that these stories can continue to be told and that there is a market for them. There is a lot of craft that has to go into making them, especially for audiences in this day and age with how much technology has advanced. Yet even with the heavy Western influences, the film is easily accessible to most audiences, as I was able to have fun with it.

You could not ask for two better lead actors for this film other than Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel. Hanks is someone that we can always expect to give a wonderful performance, and he is just someone that is great to watch on screen. However, is it newcomer Helena Zengel who ends up stealing the show and every scene that she is in. An absolutely charming performance that continues to grow as her character comes out of her shell.

It is no surprise for a Western that the craft of the film is stunning to watch. The score that accompanies this film is one of the best of the year, elevating the action sequences and getting the viewer settled into the atmosphere. It is also beautiful to watch these shots, as the cinematography roams this open world and lets us admire the beauty of it all. It is certainly not a Western if the visuals are off.

The narrative itself can appear simple at times, making sure the film can follow the similar beats within the Western genre. It makes full use of the landscape it has, telling a story that requires long travel and gun fights. However, the story itself is captivating and unravels naturally, allowing these incredibly powerful scenes of Hanks’ character, Captain Kidd, to spread the news across America and use his voice for the better.

Within these powerful scenes, there are these long drags that slow the film down and mess with the pacing of the story. Whilst it does pick up the pace in the second half, I do feel that the film does need some further editing to cut on the runtime. The film also introduces some interesting side characters, but these never fully get a chance to develop or become something major, and I think the film does suffer from having that extra development to fully make use of the two-hour runtime.

For what the film aims to be, it is a successful and well-made Western film in the 21st-century. Whilst I do wish it was a little less predictable and made use of the runtime a little better, the craft is there and the passion that was behind the filmmaking comes through. I particularly cannot wait to see what Zengel does after this, and it is worth watching for her performance alone.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

News of the World is available to watch on Netflix now.

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