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Review: 'News of the World' explores the ideological divide of post-Civil War America

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(from left, center) Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) and Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) in News of the World, co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass. (Photo: Universal)

News of the World
4 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Paul Greengrass
Writer: Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies, Paulette Jiles (novel)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel
Genre: Drama, Western
Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, thematic material and some language

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Five years have passed since the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from town to town reading the latest headlines from the newspapers he gathers on his way. On his journey he comes across Johanna, a 10-year-old girl, who he vows to return to her family.

Review: Set five years after the end of the Civil War, the film reveals a country still divided and determined to root out the Native American presence as civilization pushes westward. Based on the Paulette Jiles novel, “News of the World” is littered with stories of loss and remorse.

Tom Hanks stars as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of three wars, who, for reasons initially not clear, is unwilling to return home now that the fighting is done. Instead, Kidd goes from town to town reading the news to the townsfolk for a dime per head.

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On his journey he comes across a blonde-haired 10-year-old girl who has spent most of her life in the custody of the Kiowa tribe. Kidd reluctantly agrees to take the girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel), to her uncle and aunt. Johanna, having become accustomed to life with Kiowa, is uncooperative.

Directed by Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy,” “Captain Phillips”), “News of the World” is a film built upon the darkness and danger of the age and the light and charm that Hanks brings to his roles. History is known to repeat itself. The ideological divide that exists between the victorious North and the defeated South feels frighteningly relevant. Violence is a whisper away. This is not a world for children, or the meek of heart. Johanna has untold value on the illicit market. As such, the journey to bring her home is dangerous.

“News of the World” takes a familiar path and rarely strays from it. Still, Hanks is as amiable as ever and Zengel’s feral performance gives just enough room to not obscure the vulnerability of the character. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is a pleasure to watch. Strange how a place so beautiful could be so cruel to those who stray into its boarders.


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