America, XIX century, Texas. Five years since the end of the civil war, in which Captain Jefferson Kidd (Tom Hanks) participated on the side of the Confederates, that is, the southerners. After the war, Captain Kidd did not return home, where no one was waiting for him, but chose the strange role of a “walking newspaper” for himself: the captain travels around small towns and reads news from relatively fresh, and sometimes completely stale newspapers, which he carries with him. They pay him a penny for this, but enough for food, so the captain does not complain.
During the next move, Kidd discovers a ten-year-old girl in the forest, who, apparently, was being transported to be handed over to the federal authorities, but whites attacked the black driver and hanged him. In the wagon, Kidd found a piece of paper that indicated the girl’s name was Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) and that she had lost her family twice: the first time her parents, German-born colonists, were killed by the Kiowa Indians, who took the girl with them, and she lived they have.
And then the whites killed the Indians, so that the girl was left completely alone. She has an uncle and an aunt, but they live quite far away, in Castrovil, where they travel for several days, including through the lands controlled by the Kiowa Indians. And the girl does not speak English at all, she speaks Kiowa, she also remembers a few words in German.
Kidd delivers Johanna to Red River and attempts to hand over to a federal official. However, he is told that there is no homeless agent in the city now, he will arrive only in three months and then he will take the girl to her relatives. The captain tries to place Johanna with a familiar family for three months, but she runs away from them, and they simply cannot cope with her.
And then Kidd decides to deliver the girl to relatives on his own.
The screenplay of this film is based on a novel by American writer Paulette Giles. The novel, by the way, was published quite recently, in 2016. The script was written by Paul Greengrass with Luke Davies, the film was directed by Paul Greengrass: he had already worked with Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. Let me also remind you that Greengrass directed the last three – the most, in my opinion, stupid – films about Jason Bourne.
I must say that the conditional Western as a genre is still not dead, and from time to time new pictures appear shot in this genre, although they, of course, have changed a lot, so now instead of brave cowboys fighting bloodthirsty Indians or, conversely, helping noble Indians to fight against the villainous oppressors, now the theme of how the old wise lone wolf accompanies some fool, no matter what gender, through dangerous territories, well, in the process of all sorts of harsh adventures, the wise lone wolf understands something important for himself, and the fool gains worldly wisdom.
That was the movie “Due West” with Michael Fassbender, a similar plot was in the excellent film “Iron Grit” with Jeff Bridges, but “Iron Grit” was filmed by the Coen brothers, and Greengrass, as we understand it, has never been the Coens that both are together, that each separately.
Therefore, the plot of “News from around the world”, unfortunately, could be predicted from beginning to end. Captain Kidd, of course, is terribly correct from all sides, and he is resolutely for all the good against all the bad, well, with all his military past, he is actually a pacifist, and in the cartridges of his gun there is only small shot “for birds”, but we are fine we understand that such a wonderful person will not stain the noble Texas land even with a bird’s blood.
Surely he would take the girl two hundred miles across dangerous territory, armed only with birdshot. And if they are attacked by very bad people, whom you can’t break through with birdshot, then he will come up with something (or maybe a girl will come up with), also they will probably come across some nice guy on the road who will simply give Kidd a gun from the heart – well, his hobby is giving pistols.
And, of course, when a dust storm catches them on the road, during which the girl is lost, the noble Kiowa Indians will find her, who will hear that the girl freely indulges “in their own way”, in the Kiowa way, and from the generosity of the soul they will give the girl this to a noble white gentleman a horse, which, in fact, costs a lot of money, and the vast majority of the people from the tribe, including the very old, trail the leader on foot.
And there, the farther, the more and more absurd this and so rather dreary and simply boring picture was carried away. Almost the only more or less interesting character was there – this is the same girl who did not speak English. But at least she had some character. Most of the rest of the characters, including Captain Kidd, are perfect cartons. There were no halftones: either for everything good against everything bad, or just such scoundrels and scum that it already reduces the cheekbones.
Purely scripted here, in general, everything is spelled out worse than ever. And some three ridiculous bastards who for some reason were chasing the girl at the risk of getting a bullet in the head – so she surrendered to them the hell? And a completely idiotic scene with a town where everyone harvested bison skins under the supervision of a caricature villain (he reminded Bartholomew Baugh from The Magnificent Seven with his sheer caricature).
And there, too, Kidd’s stupid conflict with the villain was completed with the Deus ex Machina variant in the face of this guy who absolutely fell out of the script, who got out of the car like that, hung out with them for five minutes of screen time, gave Kidd a gun and then climbed into the car.
But it seems that the film crew is not interested in the plot at all. For them, the main thing is to beautifully (and really beautifully) show the expanses of New Mexico, try to recreate these nineteenth century towns, which are really shown at least interestingly, and the clothes of those times. And they work on clothes very touchingly to the smallest detail, while Captain Kidd flaunts a luxurious Hollywood smile in his mouth, like some other characters, although we give Tom Hanks his due – he tries to smile less. Moreover, according to the film, he suffers, and is concerned about the fate of the girl.
Well, what they wanted to show beautifully – they showed. What they tried not to bother with (“The script,” Bublik the cat prompted, “the script!”) – they didn’t get confused. Hanks plays Hanks? Yes, he plays Hanks. It’s fine? No, because his character has practically no intelligible content, and “he’s good because he’s good” never works here at all.
As a result, it turned out beautifully, but very long and very dreary, and a couple of energetic and dynamic episodes only emphasize the fact that all this dragging goes on for two hours, but to hell it goes so much – it’s completely incomprehensible.
However, what surprised me a lot, most critics downright sing eulogies to this film. Although, it would seem that the content, and not just the form, should be important to critics in the first place. But they saw the content here. The captain and girl, critics said, are learning to communicate with each other. Clear stump, they need to learn to communicate, because the girl is chattering in some kind of gibberish language of these savages who have given America nothing but the land on which the United States stands!
Another picture received four nominations for “Oscar” – for the work of the cameraman, production designer, sound and soundtrack. Well, there is logic in this: it was shot beautifully, the production designers also tried, there is definitely some kind of soundtrack, but, to be honest, I somehow didn’t remember it.
But the cat Bagel and I are very simple guys. If we see green melancholy, where there are no interesting and vital characters, then we say so. We don’t need to be hypocritical. We’d better revisit “Iron Grit”, because unlike this completely sterile film, it’s a completely different matter, there is real life and very colorful characters.
Here is our whole story. Excuse me, as they say, if we are someone of this-and-that…
News from all over the world / News of the World movie meaning
Director: Paul Greengrass Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Ray McKinnon, Michael Angelo Covino, Fred Hechinger, Elizabeth Marvel, Gabriel Ebert, Winsome Brown, Neil Sandilands, Mare Winningham
Budget: $38 million
Western drama, USA-China, 2020, 118 min.