News of the World: Brilliant Acting Outshining Lack of Originality


R E V I E W – M O V I E


Shudipto Dip


Travelling back no more than twenty years from now, we would find ourselves a noteworthy audience willing to spend a fistful of dollars with the hopes to witness gunslinging action as the obligatory tumbleweed rolls by. As the spaghetti western evolved, so did our expectations of a well-crafted storyline. After hovering through the stars with our lone ranger – the Mandalorian, are we ready to snap out of a creative galactic-western fantasy and rocket back to earth? With a character duo as unoriginal as in News of the World, the answer weighs in on the negative end.

The initial credits roll, as we are greeted with our lead grooming up for his job. Nothing that hasn’t been used before a thousand times, only this time we are strictly reminded of the set-up through a serene silhouette opposing the lamps. As the title suggests, Tom Hanks’s character is a news reader — a well informed Civil War veteran travelling through the barren lands of Texas, reading out the news to those who deem it fancy. More of a storyteller than a reader, he captivates the commoners with information – federal or fun.

One day he discovers a twice-orphaned pre-teen lost in the woods. Her being a minority, there is an evident language barrier at first and bits of supposedly heart-warming sessions of teaching each other new words that follow. Through a number of unconvincing plot armor rejections by the law enforcers, Hanks’s character, named Captain Kidd, has to take up the responsibility of returning her to her next of kin. And it’s all the plot of Logan from here, minus the occasional R-rated cat scratching actions.

Tom Hanks has been typecast as the resilient idealist, and like every time before he made his casting irreplaceable. At just the age of 12, Helena Zengel delivered a brilliant performance, worthy of the tag ‘precocious’. Her character, having a history and behavioural pattern strikingly similar to Laura from Logan, stands out for her subtle and sublime deliverance of expressions that are not traumatised. The unique profession of Hanks, not being the highlight of the film, adds nothing to the character, little to the storyline and a lot to its confrontation of the then looming bigotry. His little efforts at enlightening the oppressed minorities and ‘criminals of war’, inspiring them to be people of their own through allegorical news reading are particularly heartwarming.

The camera work in the film, at times felt smart, and at others – forced. Switching from Jason Bourne to western drama, director Paul Greengrass reduced the use of shaky cams for naturalism and docudrama feels. Not knowing this particular piece of information, anyone watching closely could be annoyed by the usage of this method in bulk throughout the film. Smooth and asymmetric camera panning has been cleverly executed to intensify the disturbance in sequences not in favour of our leads. It is complemented by the scenery shots of the desolated prairies.

The musical score of the film is not immediately suggestive of the genre it is, which is appreciable. There might not be whistleable classics like that of Morricone, but the constant ambient pieces elevate the atmosphere beautifully. Implementation of classics like ticking effects for the suspenseful sequences is successful, but using heartbeat seems rather unprofessional.

The predictability diminishes the rewatchability, making monologues seem like cliched pep talk. The movie has its fair share of action sequences. A relatively long epilogue following a pseudo climactic scene adds a new layer to the character development of Captain Kidd, compensating for the lack of provoking thoughts that usually follow protagonising colonisers. Conservative ideologies, slavery, hate crime, post war turmoil and a pinch of pedophilia are all depicted neatly in the film.

With a slow paced and heartwarming, not to mention unoriginal arc, this film is always a viable option for a peaceful Friday family film night.

 


Shudipto is a replicant with the emotional range of a labradoodle.

 

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