The most logical explanation for the confounding awfulness of News of the World is that Paul Greengrass must be contractually obligated to release a terrible film every 10 years.
After sending audiences scrambling for barf bags to combat the motion sickness caused his 2010 Matt Damon-starring, Iraq War thriller, Green Zone, the writer/director lulls viewers to sleep with his improbably dull adaptation of Paulette Jiles’ acclaimed 2016 novel.
The tale of Civil War veteran Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) making a living by traveling around Texas, reading newspaper highlights to crowds of people too busy to do it themselves, is even more disappointing for failing to build on the rapport that Greengrass and Hanks established in Captain Phillips — the 21st-century high point for both director and star.
Despite the interesting concept, News of the World bogs itself down early by giving Jeff a tagalong in Johanna (Helena Zengel), a preteen German immigrant who’s spent the past few years as a captive of the Kiowa tribe. Her inability to communicate makes her a frustrating companion (for Kidd and viewers alike) and essentially turns the film into a series of monologues for Hanks, who appears unwilling to muster basic enthusiasm for his uninspired lines.
Tasked with bringing Johanna to relatives living on the other side of dangerous territory, Jeff leads them through a series of clichéd obstacles, during which their safety is never in question and the laughably bad writing makes it increasingly difficult to care about their “predicament.”
Stranger still is that, while the production design is impressive and the cinematography yields an occasional memorable vista, News of the World is bereft of the exciting, quick-edit docudrama style that has defined Greengrass’ best work.
It all reeks of a story that works well on the page but needs more imaginative filmmakers to properly adapt it to the screen — and should be avoided at all costs.
Starts Dec. 25 at AMC River Hills 10 and the Carolina Cinemark