News of the World [8/10]

Tom Hanks’s movies by now loom larger than the actual storyline or script, his trademark reserved seriousness casting a shadow over each one. Some of them half work, others triumph. “News of the World” is in the latter category despite a plot that screams feelgood from the start. A blighted Civil War veteran, who has restored some self pride by becoming a news reader, toting rolled-up broadsheets across the scarred, postwar south and reading them, for coins, to the assembled citizenry. This central plot device in itself inject heft into the film for this viewer, for I love reading to others. The news reader stumbles upon a young girl who was ripped from her family by the Kiowas and can no longer speaks English. Abandoned by terrible fate, she is taken under the wing of our hero, who undertakes a perilous journey, through hideous wayfarers and corrupt communities, to her former German relatives. One realizes early that the ending will be sweet enough, but strangely enough, the filmmaking skill in evidence here washes away the cliches. The wild West is grittily portrayed in subdued colors, Hanks’s young co-star Helena Zengel puts in a riveting performance, and the violent set pieces are brilliantly staged. The ending delighted me. News of the World is an unexpected triumph.

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