At the risk of sounding odious, let me state that I am not a big Tom Hanks fan. He is a reasonably good actor who has done brilliant work in the past. Not in recent times. Not in the Da Vinci Code. Not in Angels & Demons. Certainly not in Sully, Greyhound and Captain Phillips. Mr Hanks’s new films rank as his best in years. He gets together with his Captain Phillips director to construct a parable of pain and compassion, a tale of morality so basic so simple so pure and so nurturing it feels like a cool bracing dip in a mountain spring on a parched day.
It is a very simple story, really, about a lonely widower in the year 1870 and a little girl whose family is butchered during the savagery of the Civil War and has nowhere to go. Mr Hanks plays Captain Jefferson, an autumnal man of principles who spends his remaining days reading out newspapers to an illiterate populace from one time to another.
When the Captain runs into the little girl Johanna under traumatic circumstances, his first impulse is to run like most of us do when we see an accident on the road. But since the Captain, being played by Tom Hanks must have a conscience. He takes the girl in and eventually pledges to transport her to her surviving family members.
Most of the film is styled like a road movie on horseback, replete with heart-stopping chase sequences and some of the most spectacular shots of the great rugged outdoors seen during these times of stifling lockdown. But the showstopper is the sequence where Hanks and the girl join hands to protect themselves from a bunch of outlaws. The shootout is classic Western stuff. Staged with the persistent passion and subtle precision of a craftily choreographed ballet performance, that shootout in the rocks is reason enough to watch this film.
The News Of The World gives us a lot more to take home. It gives us hope courage and compassion, and it gives us Hanks in one of his career’s finest performances. He had earlier played a kind generous-hearted man in A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood where his character was too sugary to be digested. Here he is kind but also human. He is hurt and consequently knows how to hurt. But he never uses that prerogative for self-preservation on the unsuspecting. The young girl, played with an appealing sullenness by German child actress Helena Zengel, finds a home at the end. In life, as in the movies, in order to heal one needs to share someone’s pain.
Directed by Paul Greengrass, News Of The World gets 3 and a half stars.
Image source: Youtube, Instagram/newsoftheworldmovie, Youtube/UniversalPicturesAustralia
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