The neo-western parked at Netflix by Universal Pictures NEWS FROM THE WORLD is given Oscar chances and is compared to “The Mandalorian” by Tom Hanks. We reveal what we think about it in our review.
OT: News of the World (USA/CHN 2020)
The plot summary
America in 1870: Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) roams from town to town in the Wild West. He earns his living by reading the newspaper out loud in a rousing way, thereby informing those who are glued to his lips about current developments in the world. One day on his travels he meets a lonely girl: little Johanna (Helena Zengel) lost her parents six years ago and only speaks a language that is foreign to Kidd. But a message asks the captain to escort the young girl to relatives in San Antonio. The war veteran takes on the dangerous mission despite numerous adversities that stand in his way. Surprisingly, Johanna is also one of those who want to stop Kidd. Because she has no desire for the world that is foreign to her and into which he is supposed to lead her…
There are three reasons why film buffs might have heard of “Neues aus der Welt” before the new Paul Greengrass directorial debuted on Netflix: USA film fans in particular may have caught wind of this western because Helena Zengel stars in it. The casting news came in the wake of the stirring arthouse hit “System Sprenger” and thus portrayed the young actress as the new international acting hope from the Federal Republic. It is also Zengel who has given “Neues aus der Welt” a solid buzz at the annual film awards in recent days – she has already been nominated for a Satellite Award, a Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award. And then there was a quote from lead actor Tom Hanks (“The Wonderful Mr. Rogers”) in the online press: The acting legend described “News from the World” to “CinemaBlend” as “The Mandalorian without lightsabers”. You have to hand it to Hanks: He is not only an excellent actor, but also a PR professional – in today’s age of film reporting, a “Star Wars” comparison guarantees that this description of your own project will make the rounds on digital film portals. And Hanks doesn’t just throw a buzzword around – “News from the World” can also be compared with numerous westerns and some video games, but the comparison with “The Mandalorian” is still not that far-fetched.
Kidd (Tom Hanks) and Johanna (Helena Zengel) gradually become confidants…
This is of course not at all surprising, as “The Mandalorian” freely uses Western conventions with the central story element of its first two seasons: It has often been said of an experienced warrior who transports a younger protégé from A to B and in the process Must protect against dangers, be they weather-related, wild animals or heartless people. While “The Mandalorian” modifies this formula by enriching it with spaceships, lightsabers, laser bullets and numerous preparations from spin-off series and other “Star Wars” projects, “Neues aus der Welt” takes a path that is very goes well with Tom Hanks’ current screen image: Although Hanks’ acting career is not free of characters who are evil, cheeky or impetuous, the image of Tom Hanks as the wise uncle of a teddy bear clearly dominates the public perception. Fittingly, “News from the World” is not about a tough gunfighter who only discovers his warmth in the course of his mission: Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is empathetic right from the beginning of the film – he throws worried, inviting glances towards a black woman stands in the far corner of the room as he reads the news to an otherwise exclusively white (and easily angered) audience. And it’s written all over his face how his stomach tightens when he finds a black man lynched in the forest.
“It has often been told of an experienced warrior who has to transport a younger protégé from A to B and protect them from dangers, be they weather-related, wild animals or heartless people.”
It goes without saying that Kidd picks up and accompanies Rabakuin Johanna, who understands neither USA nor English and was once torn away from her USA migrant parents. He briefly objects when it is made clear to him that no one will take on this task for him. But that’s more because he’s worried that he’s not cut out for it – and less because he’s surprised by his warm-hearted nature and thinks he has better things to do. It’s a narrative choice that plays into Hanks’ talent for good-hearted authority figures, and it sets New World apart from the bulk of the one-man-and-his-protégé subcategory of Western films. However, it also flattens the character development: Kidd only undergoes a sparse change in the film’s less than two hours. He repeatedly comes up against the limits of his horizon of experience; The very well-mannered loner is briefly offended, for example, when the girl in an establishment, who grew up completely differently than him, eats with her fingers and sings under her breath. But he always shows himself to be quick to respond with understanding and to respect differences between the culture and nature of the girl raised by natives and his own kind.
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd roams the country reading newspapers to people.
Such feel-good variations on existing genres have their right to exist and can take on truly magnificent forms – see, for example, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut “Booksmart”, which is a great one as a “John Hughes teen comedy for Generation Z, with a lesbian main character in which there is no homophobic bullying whatsoever”. A good mood bomb. And it’s certainly not as if the concept of a feel-good Western was completely untested (Walt Disney, who was consequently played by Tom Hanks decades later, made numerous of them). But “Neues aus der Welt” does not manage to fully capitalize on its position. It’s almost as if the people responsible for the script were Paul Greengrass (“Jason Bourne”) and Luke Davies (“Beautiful Boy”) not completely sure of what they had developed – or else they recognized it, but did not trust the audience sufficiently: in the best parts of “Neues aus der Welt” this western becomes a film about two characters who are trying to find themselves to step out of their (sub)genre. But the routes are shorter than one might hope.
“It’s almost as if Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies, who wrote the script, weren’t entirely sure of what they were developing – or else they knew it but didn’t trust the audience enough.”
Kidd, who fought on the side of the racist South just a few years before the start of the action (although it remains unclear why and with what conviction), and Johanna, who initially mistrusted him, become a sweet, warm team that lives in rough territory and in one more just wants to stick together in a harsher society and stand up for more understanding. This goes beyond the dialogue scenes played sensitively and sometimes cleverly by Hanks and Zengel (whose portrayal of a screaming, suspicious nuisance who is in reality just a vulnerable, traumatized girl who needs the right guardian is like a kind of “system buster light”). So the moment in which Kidd tries to scare away attackers with improvised, relatively harmless ammunition and is hissed at, asking if he wants to tickle them to death, is deliciously indicative of the highlights in “Neues aus der Welt”.
The journey the two share is dramatic and exciting.
However, Greengrass falls too often and too long into an assembly line Western dramaturgy that fails to create tension with these characters, even though it aims to. Extended action scenes, which Greengrass, who exceptionally suppresses his shaky camera style, provide with little show value, lack excitement, as do scenes that are generated almost solely from the question of whether Kidd will abandon his protégé. Greengrass and Davies simply don’t create enough ambiguity for passages like this – and they are passages that generally don’t fit into this film. In terms of aesthetics, “News from the World” cannot be faulted: cameraman/“Pirates of the Caribbean” repeat offender Dariusz Wolski shows with his atmospherically lit, concise images what it would have looked like if he and his cinematic companion Gore Verbinski had shot “Lone “Ranger” filmed. And composer James Newton Howard creates a score that very consistently captures the essence of the film with its grand, soulful melodies – when, to its sounds, Zangel’s fidgety girl finds peace, brightens up and shows how comfortable Johanna can feel when she When you feel like you’ve arrived, your heart can really open.
Conclusion: “System Sprenger 1870” meets “What if Mister Rogers were a Western hero?”: “Neues aus der Welt” lets a quiet man and a childlike bundle of nerves go on a Wild West journey that underlines how important it is to always keep your horizons to expand. It’s just a shame that the film is permeated by the suspicion that the filmmakers didn’t completely trust the essence of their film.
“News of the World” is now available to stream on Netflix.