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Paul Greengrass
Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Tom Astor
Writing Credits:
Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies

A former Civil War officer transports a girl to her family.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
English DVS
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 3/23/2021

• Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Paul Greengrass
• “Partners” Featurette
• “Western Action” Featurettte
• “Paul Greengrass Directs News of the World” Featurette
• “The Kiowa” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• DVD Copy


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


News of the World [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 5, 2021)

Back in 2013, director Paul Greengrass and actor Tom Hanks paired for the Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips. 2020 reunites them for a Western called News of the World.

Set in Texas circa 1870, Civil War veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) travels the state and plies his trade as a newsreader. This means he goes from town to town and charges a nominal fee to update locals on current events.

After he departs Wichita Falls, Kidd encounters Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel), an adolescent who speaks no English. She ended up in the custody of the Kiowa tribe, and she now only knows their language.

Because no one else seems willing to take responsibility for her, Kidd agrees to transport her to potential safety. Various snags emerge along the way as Kidd and Johanna get to know each other.

Best known for his three Bourne movies, Greengrass has made period films in the past. However, these efforts – such as Phillips and 2006’s United 93 - looked at recent events, not themes from 150 years ago.

That makes News unique in Greengrass’s filmography, and the flick comes with one other pleasing variation from his past: stable camerawork. As noted in other reviews, I skipped theatrical runs of Greengrass works after United 93 because his incessant use of shakycam meant I literally couldn’t stomach these projects on a big screen.

With its much more traditional camerawork, News allowed me to view a Greengrass movie in a theater once more. Hopefully this means the filmmaker will accept the existence of non-shakycam cinematography more in the future.

Really, that photography always acted as the worst aspect of Greengrass films. I felt the man showed talent as a director, but the camerawork distracted from his movies’ potential positives.

Given its stable shots, I can enjoy News as a film without these annoyances. This becomes especially pleasing because News offers a solid take on the genre.

No one should expect anything revelatory from News, as experienced film fans will recognize its bones from other flicks. We get obvious connections to The Searchers as well as Dances With Wolves and numerous other Westerns.

Derivative as it might seem at times, News still works because it comes with a rock-solid basic story. Granted, we don’t get a plot-heavy affair, as the movie mainly offers a 19th century version of a “road flick”.

We get two mismatched partners who need to cope with various problems as they travel together. Inevitably they come together and bond along the way via this episodic narrative.

Despite the well-worn nature of this story, News doesn’t feel stale or cliché. Instead, it becomes an engaging, deep character piece.

News lives and dies with the Kidd/Johanna connection, and that area turns into a strength. The movie gives both roles depth and dimensionality.

In addition, Hanks and Zengel fill out their parts nicely. It comes as no surprise that Hanks performs well, especially because Kidd doesn’t exactly represent a stretch for him. The Captain offers another in a long series of low-key, honorable men, and Hanks portrays Kidd as intended.

Zengel becomes a revelation, though. In her first American film, the German pre-teen offers a remarkable performance, as she takes on the mix of tones and attitudes necessary to create a shockingly believable character.

All these factors make News a satisfying Western. Nothing about it redefines the genre, but it offers a compelling piece.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

News of the World appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film boasted fine visuals.

Sharpness worked well. Even with wide vistas, the material appeared accurate and concise. No issues with moiré effects or jaggies occurred, and I saw neither edge haloes nor source flaws.

In this Western setting, the film often favored an amber/orange palette, with a fair amount of teal thrown in as well. Within the stylistic constraints, the Blu-ray reproduced the colors in a favorable manner.

Blacks came across as deep and dense, while shadows appeared smooth and well-developed. The movie offered pleasing picture quality.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the movie’s Dolby Atmos audio satisfied. Music showed nice stereo presence, while effects added immersive material.

The occasional action sequences boasted fine use of the side and rear speakers, all of which brought us into the story well. Weather and natural elements became an impressive aspect of the mix, as storms and other outdoor material activated the speakers in an engulfing manner. A few scenes with gunfire and additional action elements also worked well.

Audio quality seemed strong. Music was full and rich, while dialogue seemed natural and distinctive.

Effects offered clear elements, with warm, tight lows. Though not a consistently active affair, I still liked the soundtrack for News.

A smattering of extras appear here, and we find an audio commentary from co-writer/director Paul Greengrass. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, photography, music, period details, and related topics.

My prior experiences with Greengrass commentaries ranged from pretty good to pretty boring. Unfortunately, his discussion of News falls into the latter category.

Greengrass narrates the movie too often, and he tends to stick with banal thoughts. While we get sporadic insights, the commentary seems unmemorable too much of the time.

Four featurettes follow, and Partners runs seven minutes, one second with notes from Greengrass, producer Gary Goetzman and actors Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Marvel, Helena Zengel, Thomas Francis Murphy, and Fred Hechinger.

The program looks at the lead characters and the actors who play them. While we get some decent shots from the set, “Partners” usually sticks with happy talk and lacks depth.

With the seven-minute, 37-second Western Action, we hear from Greengrass, Hanks, 2nd unit director Jeff Dashnaw, head animal wrangler Clay M. Lilley and property master Keith Walters.

“Action” examines some of the movie’s genre-specific elements. Like “Partners”, “Action” contributes a few insights, but a lot of it concentrates on praise.

Paul Greengrass Makes News of the World spans 10 minutes, 59 seconds and features Greengrass, Hanks, Goetzman, Zengel, Marvel, Hechinger, producers Gail Mutrux and Gregory Goodman, location manager Hilton Clay Peres, assistant location manager Diego Dominguez, costume designer Mark Bridges, production designer David Crank, set decorator Elizabeth Keenan, composer James Newton Howard and actor Michael Angelo Covino.

“Makes” talks about sets/locations, photography, costumes, music and Greengrass’s impact on the production. Once again, we find a mix of movie details and fluff.

Finally, The Kiowa goes for three minutes, 57 seconds and features Hanks, Greengrass, Goetzman, Zengel, and Kiowa elder Dorothy Whitehorse Delaune.

“Kiowa” views the movie’s depiction of the Native tribe. It mostly feels self-congratulatory.

Seven Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 11 minutes, 16 seconds. Most of these offer minor expansions on the Kidd/Johanna relationship.

The longest and most compelling stems from a confrontation Kidd/Johanna have with a Black family. It shows Johanna’s talents with a firearm but doesn’t add much to the film. The rest feel reasonably charming but also come across as unnecessary.

Thanks to a strong cast and an effective narrative, News of the World offers an appealing Western. Nothing about it innovates but the end result seems warm and compelling. The Blu-ray offers strong picture and audio along with a decent roster of bonus materials. Expect an engaging character Western here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
0 3:
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