Movie Review: News of the World
Who would’ve thought the world needed an Old West version of You Were Never Really Here? Not me, mainly because we didn’t. Instead of a hammer-wielding Joaquin Phoenix, audiences will instead find themselves gripped and manipulated by a bearded Tom Hanks, who continues his twilight years search for a third Academy Award. News of the World may not be the film to get him to that stage, although it is one that polishes his star quality yet again. That is all director Paul Greengrass can hope for, his latest film does not inspire much brilliance, but draws out a level of consistency that feels more like a comforting embrace, a reminder that not everything to release in the congested hell of 2020 is awfully devoid of interest.
Interest and quality are two different beasts, to tame one and not the other is a definitive mistake. Greengrass should know this, and here he brings quality filmmaking to the table, but leaves interest far away from the reaches of the screen. This is, as you may have gathered, a Hanks vehicle. Being the only big name, he rightly takes centre stage. Showcasing the forgotten importance of a newsman, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) travels from town-to-town reading news to muddy Texans who find themselves in the midst of their Civil War secession. Tensions rise and the fiery outlook and conflicting opinions of neighbours, family and friends was a key turning point at this time. It is a shame then that Greengrass can do little with this wrought potential.
Providing, as expected, a treatment of modern American woes but with a background planted centuries before these problems bubbled to the forefront, News of the World ultimately plays it safe, keeping its cards incessantly close to its chest. Hanks’ unwavering consistency and draw as a leading man keeps this piece steady, but there isn’t much beyond that. A leading performance is only as strong as those around it, and there isn’t anyone here that breaches the quality expected of supporting cast members. Those who find themselves playing second fiddle to Hanks do not appear as frequently as expected. It all revolves around the fact that Kidd travels across the state, with little chance of encountering anyone he knows. For narrative purposes, this makes sense, but in practice leaves a character-shaped hole that cannot be filled by a passive attitude from those who fill it for their five minutes of fame.
Nothing dreadful, but certainly not of interest either. Greengrass has floundered a perfectly ideal concept with a strong lead at its core, a sad shame, but perhaps inevitable also. Hanks is strong, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the awards were thrown his way, not because of its great consistency and hallmarks of filmmaking, but because there is nothing else safe enough to nominate. Consider him a placeholder, one that will pick up no awards, but be happy with the Academy spotlight shining ever brightly on his frustrating final act.