Tom Hanks returns to theaters in a well-acted but predictable and deaf-mute western. News from all over the world is adapted from the Paulette Jiles novel by British writer / director Paul Greengrass. It’s the story of a former Confederate soldier who brings back a girl kidnapped by the Kiowa while rebuilding Texas. The film is beautifully shot and is reminiscent of genre classics such as The seekers. It suffers from the same criticism for being too short-sighted. Indians and freed slaves who were ruthlessly subjugated after the Civil War are an integral part of the narrative but are vaguely addressed on-screen.
News from all over the world Opened in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1870, five years after the Civil War. On a rainy night in front of an enchanted crowd, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) reads a number of flourished newspapers. The former Confederate soldier travels from town to town reading the news for a modest living. Captain Kidd is a calm and humble man who has brutal consequences the next day. He finds a lynched black man and a young white girl (Helena Zengel) in a suede dress hiding in the nearby forest.
Captain Kidd retrieves the dead man’s diary. He was hired by the Union to return the child to their family in South Texas. Johanna Leonberger was taken from the Kiowa tribe after they killed her family. She was raised Indian, speaks no English and is afraid of white men. Union soldiers found them when they drove the Kiowa from their land. Captain Kidd takes Johanna to the Red River garrison, but they reject responsibility for the girl. The captain refuses to leave her and decides to take Johanna back to her relatives. four hundred miles south through dangerous territory.
News from all over the world is an exciting character drama. Tom Hanks and the German actress Helena Zengel play off brilliantly. Captain Kidd was physically and emotionally scarred by the war. Johanna lost two families to bloody violence. She’s scared, but not shy or weak. They share the burden of a tragic past. The girl has a wild spirit, but is still a defenseless child. Captain Kidd is forced to defend Johanna against rascals who want to attack her. Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne supremacy) doesn’t shy away from the horrors of a girl in the old west.
News from all over the world has excellent cinematography but is stylistically used to marginalize the Indians depicted in the film. Let’s start with the good. The Polish cameraman Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise, The Martian) is an expert in creating vibrant color schemes. He and Paul Greengrass portray Texas as brown and dusty with a muted palette. It’s a captivating look that draws the viewer in. My problem is that the Kiowa are never actually seen. The Indians are shown as silhouettes throughout the film. You will be relegated to background and remote shots. This doesn’t make sense if their presence is crucial to the story. News from all over the world falls victim to the cultural insensitivity that plagued Hollywood from the start. Don’t even show the Kiowa if you’re just using it as a prop.
My feelings about News from all over the world are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, the film works as a character piece with solid leading roles. But I’m deeply disappointed with the way Greengrass portrays the Kiowa and the only black character in the film. I’m not a ringtone for political correctness. But we need accuracy and correct representation, especially in a movie starring Tom Hanks. Fans of the western genre will like this movie, so it deserves a reluctant recommendation. News from all over the world is a Playtone and Pretty Pictures production. It will be released in theaters by Universal Pictures in the US on Christmas Day.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or position of News Gob.