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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

If it bleeds it leads.

News of the World (2020) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Lincoln's faceIn 1870 ex-Confederate soldier Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) having lost his publishing business in San Antonio during the war has become a traveling reader of world news (“I read the news from town to town”) to the receptive people of Texas and beyond. Out of Wichita Falls one day he happens upon a wrecked wagon, a lynched “nigger”—as they were known back then—and a “twice orphaned” white girl 10-year-old Johanna Leon­berger (Helena Zengel.) Johanna had been living with the Kiowa Indians under their language, customs, and Injun name Cicada. Circum­stances lead him to transport her over 400 miles of inhospitable roads to Castro­ville where her only living relatives reside. Castro­ville is near San Antonio where he needs also to pay his final respects to his deceased wife. His good deed was like unto one in a David Housewright novel:

One time we were driving in the rain and there was a car broken down along the free­way, and my father stopped to see if he could help. Turned out it was this real old couple that ran out of gas or some­thing. My mother stayed angry at my father for a week after that. She said by stopping he put us all at risk of being murdered or raped or I don't know. That's how I remember it, anyway. (178)

It's a risky, ill-advised detour.


Capt. Kidd tells Johanna, “See all those words printed in a line one after the other? Put 'em all together and you have a story.” A series of metaphors here in this movie reflect a biblical archetype well-known in the Bible belt. (Gen. 2:15) “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Then they ate the apple (Gen. 3:6) and were expelled from paradise. (Gen. 3:17-19) “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; plowing In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” In short, life is a bitch and then you die. This movie presents that in spades here in Texas: a hard­scrabble life, death by disease, and a lynched black man in a fresh grave.

In the olden days of Noah his father Lamech had (Gen. 5:29) “called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” Noah means rest or comfort. (Gen. 9:18-19) “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth over­spread.” After the flood one day, Noah took some leisure time, stripped down, and got drunk in his tent where he was discovered by his youngest son Ham who complained to his two brothers (Gen. 9:20-22). He was perturbed that his father had gotten naked doing what­ever with­out procreating as God commanded. Indeed, Noah sired no more children after the flood. Ham didn't like Noah taking a recess from rebuilding the wrecked world, either. Noah's response was along the lines of, “Oy vey! You want we should have children and work hard? Okay, your descendants (Canaan) can be slaves to your brothers. Oy vey!” (Gen. 9:24-27). For the record Cush was a son of Ham (Gen. 10:6), settling in Africa. Cush is Hebrew for black.

getting readyIn “News” Capt. Kidd offered the Texans a bit of respite from their hard life per Noah's example. He tells them, “You're working a trade sunup till sun­down, no time for reading news­papers. Let me do that work for you, and maybe just for tonight we can escape our troubles.” He dressed up all spiffy for his reading, but we see his war wounds before he put on his shirt. Similarly, Noah's two sons Shem and Japheth covered their soused father with a blanket giving him some respecta­bility in his leisure, (Gen. 9:23) thus dignifying the work break. In a deleted scene a lodge pro­prie­tress Mrs. Gannett (Elizabeth Marvel) chastises Capt. Kidd for pointing to the (paid for) bed where he wanted a reluctant Johanna to sleep. Indian-raised Johanna thinks the Captain is casting a spell. Mrs. Gannett tells her not to worry, that if he should come to abuse her in the night, they would dismember him piece­meal, cutting off various body parts. Thus was the “spell” broken. If Ham mocking his father had been allowed to go unpunished, it would have cast a pallor over the deserved evening relaxation Noah instigated. Cursing Ham's progeny puts the kibosh on that.

This biblical story can be considered part of the great news of the world conveyed by Capt. Kidd, along the lines of a Patrick Hoffman novel in which a female lawyer “began to imagine news­paper stories related to the missing documents. The New York Times would cover it. She wrote the head­line in her mind: ‘Rise and Fall of a Great Lawyer.’ The Wall Street Journal would be all over it: ‘Calcott Brought Down by Own Law Firm.’ ¶The stock market would react. Pensions would be lost. There would be whispers in Chappaqua where she lived. Gossip at the country clubs. Pointing, talking, muttering” (50–51). Leaving Noah discredited would have had profound effects on life as we know it.

Capt. Kidd reads, amidst some heckling, “President Ulysses S. Grant [‘Boo!’] has advised the Texas legislature to accept amendments 13, 14 & 15 of the U.S. Constitution before any return to the union can be considered. These amendments include the abolition of slavery [‘SAY NO TO ABOLITION. NEVER!’] affording the former slaves the right to vote, and the repayment of our war debt.” The riled up crowd then turned on the blue­coats standing in the back, “What are you doing here? You ain't dealin' with the Indians, fixing our roads, mending our crossings. All they're doing is beatin' up on us Southern folks.” The captain just reminds them we're all hurting.

This brings to mind the saying, “A man convinced against his will / Is of the same opinion still.” It was only through occupation of certain southern states that they were coerced into ratifying those amendments to make up the mandated 75% states approval necessary for inclusion in the Constitution. Consent to be valid must be freely given, not be coerced. This puts the abolition of slavery on shaky legal grounds, to say the least.

Production Values

” (2020) was directed by Paul Greengrass. Its screenplay was written by Greengrass and Luke Davies as adapted from Paulette Jiles's novel, News of the World, Its worthy leads were old Tom Hanks and young Helena Zengel. It also featured Thomas Francis Murphy, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winning­ham, Ray McKinnon, Neil Sandilands, Chukwudi Iwuji, and Bill Camp. A good performance was given by Hanks, and the little girl was marvelous in three languages. They had good chemistry together.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for violence, disturbing images, thematic material and some language. It had a sweeping cinematography, with realistic looking towns, period costumes, and a haunting musical score. The pace was steady and the ending memorable.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This was a touching adventure set in the old west in trying times. The southern perspective on the after­math of the Civil War might not appeal to Yanks but it is historical. A lot was happening.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Hoffman, Patrick. Clean Hands. Copyright © 2020 by Patrick Hoffman. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020. Print.

Housewright, David. First, Kill the Lawyers. Copyright © 2019 by David Housewright. New York: Minotaur Books, 2019. Print.