News of the World: this gentle Western, by Paul Greengrass, explores the traditional conflict between civilization and savagery (which manifests in more ways than one, and not exactly in an expected way), but its main focus is the idea of family, of home. The story is well-paced, mixing intense setpieces with quiet moments that allow the two main characters to get used to each other, as is wont in a road movie.
This is the sort of character that Tom Hanks plays with unbelievable ease, a decent and crafty man trying to make the best out of a bad and unexpected situation; his performance is efficient and low key, falsely giving the impression of being effortless. Helena Zengel, as his ward, is also effective as a long-suffering and lost young girl, suffusing her with smarts. The film is sprinkled with fine actors playing well in small parts: Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel, Ray McKinnon, and Bill Camp.
The journey goes through beautiful landscapes, captured with painterly quality by the work of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski; his light is amazing. Mark Bridges’ costumes are quite well-done, but the film keeps them unrealistically pristine and clean for too long. Composer James Newton Howard creates a lovely, subdued musical score.