News of the World ★★½

Conscience is not only about doing the right thing.

Director Paul Greengrass reunites with Tom Hanks for News of the World eight years after they had worked together on Captain Philipps. In their latest collaboration, Tom Hanks takes on the role of Captain Kidd (he is the captain now), a Civil War veteran, whose path crosses with a lost girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel) who does not speak a word of English. Determined to find her family, the two set off on a new path.

img_0091-1The first few minutes of News of the World already establishes the atmosphere of the post-Civil War era and the beautiful imagery captivates its audience to the fullest. The visuals are extremely striking on the scenes that revolve in or around small towns, where the light and shadows compliment each other greatly. Greengrass has always been as good at imagery as he is at storytelling, and his latest pictures proves that with confidence.

His choice for the main roles, namely Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel, are also quite up to the standard in acting as Greengrass is in directing, and their collaboration clearly pays off in harmony. Hanks still manages to meet expectations after years of success where he rarely falls short, if at all, which is surprising since the expectations only climbed higher during his career.

Nevertheless, News of the World has a few shortcomings which is not necessarily usual for the style of the director Paul Greengrass. As evident from the premise, News of the World follows the typical adventure setting with familiar tropes. It starts at point A with the destination being point B, though complications occur in-between point A and B. This type of structure has been overused by countless other adventure movies, which makes News of the World quite predictable in multiple ways.

The movie for the most part sticks to Captain Kidd and Johanna, with side characters coming and going in accordance to the development of plot points. Thus, there is no other character apart from Captain Kidd and Johanna who consistently appears throughout the runtime. Furthermore, these secondary appearances are almost always limited to single separate scenes, causing News of the World to feel like a compilation of short stories that paint a bigger picture. The events that seem like short stories also seem to be too random at times, as if their sole purpose is to cause a tad more tension before the protagonist reaches his destination, not to mention the overused clichés and tropes. 

What’s worse about the side characters is that their motives are barely established – the typical scenario of the bad guy being bad and the good guy being good. As such, it is not entirely possible to comprehend why and to what end some of these characters behave the way they do.

All of these issues might make News of the World like a movie that fails its audience, yet the successful storyteller that Greengrass is, the issues lose prominence in the beautiful pacing that the director masterfully arranges, not to mention the beautiful vista that is portrayed. As a result, we are left with a feel-good movie that is highly enjoyable, but also leaves us wondering as to how much more it could have been if the cliché premise and typical adventurous story development were to be a tad more original. 

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