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News of The World | 2020 Movie Review

Reviewed By: Anantha Alagappan

We all rely on the news to know about the happenings of the world. The morning newspaper is our every day means to know the current affairs of the country and the places beyond. But that does raise an interesting question. In the good old days, how many of them had access to the newspapers or radio, especially in remote towns or countryside? People would rely on travelers to give them information about what is happening beyond the horizon. The gypsies, nomads along with the wind carried the news from one place to another. News of The World movie introduces a very interesting profession that involves reading the news from the leading newspapers of the world to the people in the remote towns of Northern Texas.

News of The World: Plot

The year is 1870, just after the civil war. Texas, like other states in the US, is trying to stabilize post-war and deal with the changing political and cultural landscape. Some colored men are set free, the Republicans have got their foothold on Texas, but still, there is a rivalry within the party upon the direction the state is heading to, the captives who were held long by the native tribes are being ransomed by the US Army and are set free to rejoin their families.

Tom Hanks Treats Us With Another Memorable Performance in News of The World 2020 Movie
Tom Hanks Treats Us With Another Memorable Performance in News of The World 2020 Movie

Captain Kidd, a 71-year-old retired army officer, and a widower has seen it all, participated in three wars, and had owned a printing press. He earns his living in a very interesting way, he collects information from the leading newspapers around the world and then reads all the fascinating information across the globe to the people in the small towns in Northern Texas. People come in hoards for his reading sessions, they love hearing news on what is happening in different parts of the country and love being humored by the enchanting tales which Captain Kidd reads to them.

When he is traveling to one such small town to read the news, he is asked to transport a captive back to her family near San Antonio, south of Texas. The girl is 10-year-old, captured by the Kiowa tribe, and is completely transformed into one of their own. She does not speak English nor does she remember any events of her past before her capture except the memories of her parents and her sister. Captain Kidd and the girl, Johanna, begin their journey in North, near Wichita, to travel down south, where few of her German relatives are willing to adopt her.

Then the story follows the western style, the vast plains, and wilderness of Texas, the raiders, thieves, bandits, chase, and ambush. As they confront a few perils, slowly they begin to warm up to each other, and Johanna starts trusting Captain Kidd and calls him grandfather. He tries to teach her the civilized way of living and she starts speaking broken English with him.

Captain Kidd is initially under an illusion that he is saving her and reforming her, but Johanna loves the free native Indian way of living so much that she finds civilization more binding. But despite their contradicting beliefs, they still bond with each other. In their journey, they meet some really interesting characters. Johanna is looked upon with scorn at many places and is an object of interest to few. They meet soldiers, raiders, thieves along their way and also narrowly escape a chase. When they finally reach the destination, Captain Kidd is left with two choices, can he leave Johanna with her foster family, who are resolute about using her as a slave, or should he take her under his wing, which makes him a kidnapper in the face of law?

What’s Good About The Movie?

The movie is very well crafted and the visuals are splendid. The aerial shots of the vast Texas Prairies are breathtaking. The unruly terrain, the rolling hills, and the hardships of the locals are beautifully captured. I especially loved the enigmatic aura in which the Kiowa tribe is presented in the movie. The lead pair did an incredible job, Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel excel in their roles and get into the skin of their characters.

The movie captures the political atmosphere of Texas in the 1870s very accurately. Texas was part of the Confederates during the Civil War, so some of the views presented in the movie may not be to the popular liking. But the screenplay is crisp, the arguments are stated and noted. The political opinions are just presented, they are neither advocated nor ridiculed.

The movie does deviate from the book in many instances. To start with, in the book, Captain Kidd agrees to escort Johanna because he is given a good coveted 50 dollars to do the job. Whereas in the movie, he is shown to be a kindhearted man who is doing the job to answer to his own clear conscience. In the book, Captain Kidd does not read the local news as he believes that information could be obtained easily from the local public. Instead, he entices the audiences with the news from lands, far far away across the globe.

In the movie, though there is a glimpse of “The Times of India”, Captain Kidd is seen reading primarily from the Texas newspapers and the Federal newspapers. Most of the supporting cast is given little screen time, and they disappear into oblivion once the Captain and Johanna embark on their next stop. Whereas in the book, we learn about the lives of each of these characters in great detail. The captain’s children are not even mentioned in the movie, the chronological events summing up the life of the captain in the movie seem to be different from the book.

My Final Take On This Film

Albeit the glaring differences, my observation is that this is one of the rare instances where it is difficult to choose between the movie and the book. I loved them both equally. The movie excels on its own, but if you want to dig deeper, go for the book. The history of Texas is intriguing and indeed worth your time.


The World of Movies Rating: 09/10


Movie Title: News of The World

Based on: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Written by: Clayton Frohman, Edward Zwick

Screenplay by: Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies

Main Cast: Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, Helena Zengel as Johanna Leonberger/Cicada

Year of Release: 2020

Genre: Action, Drama, Adventure, Western

Country of Origin: USA

Languages: English, Kiowa, German

Running Time: 118 minutes

Production Company: Perfect World Pictures, Playtone, Pretty Pictures, Universal Pictures

Distributed by:Netflix, Universal Pictures


Image Source: Screenshots taken from the movie.

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