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‘News of the World:’ Hanks’ Western worthy of Cooper and Wayne (4K Ultra HD movie review)

Written By | Apr 2, 2021
Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel star in "News of the World," now available in the 4K Ultra HD format.

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel star in “News of the World,” now available in the 4K Ultra HD format.

WASHINGTON — Long before the days of broadcast television, men used to travel to less populated areas and read the highlights and lowlights of newspapers in small towns. This premise sets the stage for director ’ recent post-Civil War drama, “News of the World” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 118 minutes, $44.98), as directed by Paul (“Green Zone” and “Captain Philips”) Greengrass. The film was adapted from Paulette Jiles’ eponymous novel.

“News of the World”: The story

“News of the World” — the novel and the film — find retired Confederate army Captain and entertaining news reader Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) delivering the words in Texas back in 1870. When Kidd stumbles upon Cicada (Helena Zengel), a young, White female child apparently raised by native Americans but abandoned, he finds himself unwillingly tasked with returning her to her surviving relatives.

The complex mission that follows allows Capt. Kidd and his companion to bring out the best in each other as they survive a variety of encounters. Most of which usually involve scumbag outlaws or radicals and even an encounter with her tribe. By the end of their arduous, bittersweet journey, both manage to discover what they have lost within a time rife with suffering and healing.

Mr. Hanks, with help from Miss Zengel, shines as usual. Better yet, Hanks’ portrayal reminds movie fans of the days when John Wayne and Gary Cooper ruled the Western.

“News of the World”: Highlights of this new release

Culled from a native 4K digital intermediate, this UHD visual presentation with high dynamic range enhancements takes full advantage of the easy-to-appreciate majesty of environments in the American Southwest. In this film, director Greengrass captures many of these panoramas at sunrise, sunset and as the sun blazes during the day.

Moments and details to embrace in “News of the World” include a rainy nighttime scene outside of a church with a slightly purplish sky; a glistening creek embedded in a desert wrapped by a mountain range; the various subtle shades of rock found on cliffs and hill sides; a moonlight escape with a dusk of blues set against a misty mountain range; a monstrous sandstorm blurring the screen with reddish-beige hues; and an over-the-top view of a massive herd of cattle entering a muddied town.

Also Read: ‘Gattaca:’ Sci-fi classic debuts on 4K Ultra HD: Movie Review

Best extras:

The welcome solo optional commentary track has Mr. Greengrass explaining, sometimes too methodically, the story of the film. He literally retells the action, almost like a narrator, while wrapping in some historical context.

Those looking for more of a precise technical breakdown or exhaustive deconstruction of the production will be disappointed. Fortunately, Mr. Greengrass eventually digs a little deeper and touches on the cinematography. But he remains fixated on serving as the omniscient story chronicler when the story is essentially obvious.

Ultimately, Mr. Greengrass is not the most gregarious or engrossing of narrators. But any time a director is willing to sit down and offer his vision, viewers should still dive in.

Additionally in this package, viewers also get four featurettes (roughly 30 minutes in total) offering gushing praise of Mr. Hanks and Miss Zengel’s performances from cast and crew; a look at the production of the film from locations to musical score (supplemented with interviews); an overview of some of the key Western-themed scenes; and a too-brief look at the real Kiowa tribe featured in the movie.

• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.

Joseph Szadkowski

A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 25 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.