When I was a kid, there was a Bollywood film that often came on television called “King Uncle”, which was released in 1993. It’s about how a strict middle-aged man warms up to an unruly orphan girl, becoming a father-like figure to her. The 2020 Hollywood film “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks can pretty much summed up the same way = middle-aged man warms up to an unruly orphan girl. Fine, Hanks is not exactly middle-aged anymore; but this movie strongly reminded me of ‘King Uncle’, however different they may seem. Moving on to the plot of ‘News of the World’…
Tom Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd who comes across an abandoned 10-year-old girl called Johanna. He finds himself ending up with the responsibility of handing over the orphan to her aunt & uncle who live in another part of the country. The story is set in the 1860s, a few years after the American civil war and it’s still pretty much the wild west out there. Kidd makes his living by reading the news from town to town, and travelling with a kid in the unforgiving terrain of Texas is not going to be easy. Captain Kidd and the kid encounter quite a few dangerous people on the way, can they survive the savagery of the wild west? That forms the rest of the narrative.
Director Paul Greengrass and team do a pretty good job with the historical sets, which convey how deeply divided the nation was, with indigenous tribes being brutally butchered and a debate raging across the land over the abolition of slavery. What however might be disappointing to some viewers is the fact that there is very little news reading in the movie, sort-of betraying the theme of the title. Although one can understand how a lot of ‘news-reading’ can just come across as very boring to most movie-goers. The little reading that Captain Kyle is intriguing and offers insights to the prejudices and beliefs of the time.
Helena Zengel who plays the little orphan girl Johanna manages to steal some scenes from veteran co-star Tom Hanks, despite having very limited lines. Those from the supporting cast don’t get enough space to make a lasting impression. In-fact, some of them could have had all their scenes removed from the film and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference to the story at all.
While Captain Kidd’s story is interesting, the pace of the storytelling is slow and the runtime could have been a lot shorter. The 1993 film ‘King Uncle’ is more entertaining, even with all the usual Bollywood song and dance. It’s a 6.5/10 for News of The World from me.
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