If you’re an hour into watching an action movie and the hero gets into a gunfight with three bad guys, do you doubt who’s going to still be standing when the last shot has been fired?
If you’re watching a movie in which the hero has to transport a kid across rough, dangerous territory, do you doubt he’ll complete the mission and get her there safely?
If you’re watching a western in which the hero and his young passenger lose control when the horses pulling their wagon begin running down a steep hill, do you doubt the humans will be able to jump off and remain unscathed before the animals and supplies plummet into a crevasse?
If you don’t know the answers raised by all of those movie clichés, then perhaps you’ll be surprised by what happens in “News Of The World.” I wasn’t — not a bit — when I finally caught up with it on DVD (it had only played in theaters until recently).
Here’s the plot. Tom Hanks plays Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former captain in the Confederate Army who, five years after the Civil War, travels on horseback from town to town reading stories out of whatever newspapers he can gather along the way for townsfolk who pay a dime apiece to listen. On one of his trips, he comes upon a blonde girl of about ten who’s on her own in the wilderness. After encounters with some Union troops who want nothing to do with her, Kidd agrees to take the child so she can be returned to her birth family a couple hundred miles away.
Of course, Kidd and the girl bond despite a language barrier — she speaks no English and he doesn’t understand her, either, since she’d been raised by the Kiowa tribe of Native Americans, who taught her their language. They also encounter some bad guys along the way, including the trio of ruffians I mentioned above, and the megalomaniacal leader of one town whose rules are enforced through the barrel of a gun.
There’s nothing wrong with Hanks’ performance, nor that of Helena Zengel, who plays the young girl. But it’s surprising that with a director as talented as Paul Greengrass (who made “Captain Phillips” and three Jason Bourne movies), “News Of The World” is nothing more than a very boring journey across the wide-open spaces of Texas, interrupted occasionally by scenes full of movie clichés.
Yes, even Tom Hanks can make a stinker. Frankly, I’d rather have spent the time listening to him reading newspaper stories out loud.
I give “News Of The World” a 3 out of 10. It’s available on DVD and streaming via video on demand.