News of the World (film)
|News of the World|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Greengrass|
|Based on||News of the World|
by Paulette Jiles
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||William Goldenberg|
|Box office||$12.2 million|
News of the World is a 2020 American Western drama film co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, and starring Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel. The film follows a Civil War veteran who must return a young girl who was taken in by Native Americans as a little girl to her last remaining family.
News of the World was released theatrically by Universal Pictures in the United States on December 25, 2020, and was released by Netflix in other international territories on February 10, 2021. It received positive reviews from critics who praised Hanks and Zengel's performances as well as the cinematography, the score and Greengrass’s direction. It was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review, and for her performance Zengel received Best Supporting Actress nominations at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In 1870, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a former member of the Confederate Army who now makes a living traveling town to town reading newspapers for the populace for ten cents per person. Following one such evening of news reading, Kidd sets out for his next location when he encounters an overturned wagon on the road. Dismounting to investigate further, he encounters the body of a Black soldier and a young White girl named Johanna who is dressed in Native American clothing. After an encounter with a Union Army patrol, Kidd is instructed to take the girl to Union officials at a checkpoint in a town up the road where they will sort out her Bureau of Indian Affairs paperwork and see to it she is returned to her surviving family. Reluctantly, Kidd acquiesces to the request.
At the Union checkpoint Kidd is informed that the Bureau of Indian Affairs representative is on the reservation and will be unavailable for three months. Seeking shelter with a former Confederate infantryman, Kidd reads the news and upon returning, begrudgingly accepts responsibility for returning the girl to her surviving family. As the two set out they attempt to find common ground, but neither one has much success in communicating with the other. This is further compounded at the next stop, when Kidd is confronted by three ex-Confederate soldiers turned criminals who express an interest in purchasing the girl from Kidd. Kidd refuses, but the three men pursue, leading to a shootout in the wilderness during which Johanna and Kidd overcome obstacles to work together for self-preservation.
At the next stop, Kidd encounters a radical band of militia working to "cleanse" the county from "outsiders". Kidd is contracted to read the approved news from the town's leader, but instead opts to read from a different paper about a group of coal miners who rally against a cruel man whose refusal to abide by safety standards puts his miners in jeopardy. Kidd’s story incites civil unrest, and ultimately results in Johanna gunning down the town's leader and rescuing Kidd. In the aftermath, Kidd and Johanna join a wagon train bound for a town with the railroad line before veering off to locate Johanna’s surviving family. During the journey Kidd’s wagon is destroyed, leaving Johanna and Kidd to continue on foot until the pair encounter a group of Kiowa from whom Johanna is able to obtain a horse.
Kidd and Johanna eventually reach her aunt and uncle's farmstead, the former revealing that Johanna's parents had struck out on their own and moved to hill country where the land would be cheaper; this led to them being killed in a Kiowa raid. Kidd reluctantly leaves Johanna (who is resistant) with them, and returns to San Antonio. His wife, Maria Luisa Betancourt Kidd, died from cholera in 1865. Now without any kin, he visits the mission where she is buried, and mournfully leaves his wedding ring and locket containing her picture on her grave.
Kidd then rides back to the village where he left Johanna, where he finds her tied to a pole, her aunt and uncle explaining that she refused to work and would instead run off. Asking forgiveness, Kidd tells Johanna (in Kiowa) that she belongs with him. Johanna accepts; her aunt and uncle reluctantly let them go. In an epilogue, Kidd reads the papers in another town, with Johanna helping out on sound effects and bearing a new name: Johanna Kidd.
- Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd
- Helena Zengel as Johanna Leonberger / Cicada
- Michael Covino as Almay
- Fred Hechinger as John Calley
- Neil Sandilands as Wilhelm Leonberger
- Thomas Francis Murphy as Merritt Farley
- Ray McKinnon as Simon Boudlin
- Mare Winningham as Doris Boudlin
- Elizabeth Marvel as Ella Gannett
- Chukwudi Iwuji as Charles Edgefield
- Bill Camp as Willie Branholme
In May 2017, Fox 2000 Pictures bought distribution rights to an adaptation of the Paulette Jiles novel with Luke Davies writing the screenplay and Tom Hanks set to star. In February 2019, Paul Greengrass was announced as director. As a result of the Disney/Fox merger, the film was transferred to Universal Pictures. In August, Helena Zengel, Michael Covino, and Fred Hechinger were added to the cast, and Thomas Francis Murphy joined in September. Filming commenced on September 2, 2019, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In November 2020, Netflix bought the international distribution rights (excluding the United States) to the film.
News of the World was theatrically released by Universal Pictures in the United States on December 25, 2020, which was followed by a Premium video on demand (PVOD) release in the United States on January 15, 2021. It originally was going to be released by Fox 2000 Pictures. In November 2020, it was announced that Netflix had acquired international distribution rights except for the United States and China and released it digitally on its streaming service on February 10, 2021. On Mar. 2, 2021 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment officially announced the release date of News of the World to physical media including Blu-ray Disc, 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, and DVD will be March 23, 2021. 
In the United States, News of the World, released alongside Wonder Woman 1984, Promising Young Woman, and Pinocchio, was projected to gross around $4 million from 1,900 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $1.05 million on its first day, and went on to debut to $2.3 million, finishing second at the box office behind Wonder Woman 1984; 70% of the audience was over the age of 35. The film fell 25% in its second weekend, grossing $1.7 million, then made $1.24 million in its third weekend.
Review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% of 249 reviews of the film were positive, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "News of the World takes a slow but absorbing ride down a comfortingly familiar Western trail, guided by Tom Hanks in peak paternal mode." According to Metacritic, which sampled 45 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, the film received "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Writing for IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave the film a grade of B and said, "If Greengrass' broadly entertaining (if gallingly relevant) film is a bit too soft and spread thin to hit with the emotional force that it could, so much of its simple power is owed to the grounded nature of the director's approach, which allows these desperate characters to feel as if they're trying to escape the very genre that threatens to define them forever." A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a "B–" and wrote: "Ultimately, News Of The World lives and dies on the presence of its iconic headliner, on the Hanks of it all. That's the most old-fashioned thing about it: It's a true star vehicle, practically a tribute to his enduring appeal. Yet for as comforting as Hanks is in the role, and for as much as he sells the poignancy of the film's bittersweet final stretch, the film feels almost too built around his signature nobility to ever gain much in the way of actual drama." Mark Kermode of The Observer awarded the film 4/5 stars and wrote "Having emerged from news documentaries to become a peerless director of vivid real-life dramas (Bloody Sunday, United 93) and frenetically visceral adventures (the Bourne franchise), Greengrass relishes the opportunity to take a more languorous attitude to character development and location, a quality that seems to have confounded some fans of the director’s more urgent fare. Yet I found this a rewarding and entertaining drama, heavy with the weight of the past, yet buoyed up by the possibilities of the future."
Contrasting views display the comments on the movie by Philipp Emberger, the critic of ORF, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation: under the title "Helena Zengel Overpowering Tom Hanks" he describes her scenes as the highlights of the film, compared to Tom Hanks' solos that seem "arduously one-dimensional", concluding that "Tom Hanks delivers a lot of forgivingness, besides the Dad-vibes", which makes the film "a quiet and steady Western with elements of road-movie, beautiful pictures of landscapes, a relevant topic, lots of heart, and a star named Helena Zengel." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 2/5 stars, writing that although Hanks' "persona here is equable and easy-going, qualities which are of course necessary to his sympathetic brand identity, he doesn’t plausibly change in any dramatic way" and describing the film as a "handsomely shot but stolid and blandly self-satisfied western". A.O Scott of The New York Times gave a similarly mixed review, writing that "this isn’t a bad movie. The problem is that it’s too nice a movie, too careful and compromised, as if its makers didn’t trust the audience to handle the real news of the world."
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