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News of the World: Movie Review

Chris Carpenter


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The new movie News of the World is a good reminder that the travesties we are currently experiencing in 2020 are nothing new.  Hardship and heartache have been on full display for centuries, including the sometimes lawless days immediately following the Civil War.

Starring in his first Western, Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) teams up with promising young actress Helena Zengel (System Crasher) to deliver quietly understated performances that harken back to a golden age of cinema. But more importantly, the movie is a reflection of ideas that ultimately arrive on the concept of doing what is morally sound and true.

Directed by Oscar-nominated Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, United 93), News of the World also features Hollywood veterans Ray McKinnon (Ford vs. Ferrari), Mare Winningham (Dark Waters, St. Elmo’s Fire), and Elizabeth Marvel (True Grit).

In what is a seemingly novel concept in 2020, News of the World will be released in theaters only without a corresponding digital tie-in.


Shortly after the end of the Civil War, former confederate officer Jefferson Kidd makes his living as a professional news reader, delivering the stories of the day to Western townsfolk who have little access to outside world.  In exchange for his stories, Kidd earns a few coins here and there, meager funding that will send him on his way to the next town.  It is on one such journey to a new town that Kidd stumbles across a 10-year old girl. She is twice orphaned, once by her parents of German descent, the other by a group of Kiowa people who were murdered by outlaws. Not quite sure who she is or where she came from, the compassionate Kidd eventually learns she has family in a distant corner of Texas.  Rather than backing away and leaving her for someone else to find, Kidd agrees to transport her across the dusty and dangerous plains to a suitable home.  Along the way, they fight for their survival, fending off tragedy at seemingly every turn.


News of the World is very much a throwback film, one that resurrects memories of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Clint Eastwood.  Shot in a variety of brown and sepia hues, the movie travels along at a moderate pace in a way that would make earlier films of that genre proud.

As usual, Hanks is delightful as an emotionally wounded man, who appears to be meandering through life and not quite sure what his future holds until he stumbles upon the young girl (Zengel).  The two-time Oscar winner does his best acting not with word or deed but with his facial expressions instead.  Viewers are consistently challenged to figure out what is going on inside the mind of his character.  This subtle technique provides a welcome element of tension and suspense.

While Hanks is noteworthy in his understated role, it is his relationship onscreen with Zengel that drives the film. The young German child actress shines brightly, as she more than adequately holds her own onscreen beside her veteran co-star. In fact, one could argue that she steals many of the scenes with her earnestness and determined-will.

Adapted from the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, Greengrass, who teamed up with Hanks on 2013 Oscar-nominated “Captain Phillips”, chooses to focus on the journey that Kidd and the young girl take. His decision to do so is deeply rich in providing moments of admiration, compassion, and at times, terrifying tension.

Some viewers will be troubled by the consistent demonstrations of violence including the hanging of a black person as well as young children being captured by Indians.  Also, there is an inference to pre-marital sex when a female saloon-keeper is seen lying in bed while Kidd is in the room working on his next news reading performance.


Despite the aforementioned violence, the veiled reference to pre-marital sex, and alcohol use that was highly prevalent during that era, News of the World demonstrates a strong Christian world view, one that exhibits a strong sense of compassion and self-sacrifice.  The movie consistently shows love and kindness between the two lead actors, a welcoming sight in a year that sometimes has been bereft of such emotions.

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About The Author


Chris Carpenter is the program director for, the official website of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also serves as executive producer for myCBN Weekend, an Internet exclusive webcast show seen on In addition to his regular duties, Chris writes extensively for the website. Over the years, he has interviewed many notable entertainers, athletes, and politicians including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughy and Reese Witherspoon, evangelist Franklin Graham, author Max Lucado, Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and former presidential hopefuls Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike