Image courtesy of Universal
Tom Hanks’s lates movie News of the World sees him once again look to history for inspiration, but it’s the first time he’s made a western.
Hanks takes his turn at the Western
Set in 1870, widowed army veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (played by Hanks) travels from town to town as a wandering storyteller and source of news from around the world. When he reaches Texas, he meets 10-year-old Johanna. Having been raised by the Kiowa tribe she is now due to be returned to her aunt and uncle, and Kidd offers to accompany her on the, at times, hazardous journey.
Teaming up once again with acclaimed director Paul Greengrass, who directed Hanks in Captain Phillips, and based on the novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, the trailer looks promising. The rights to the movie adaptation of the book were snapped up just eight months after publication, and its appeal is obvious. The nostalgia for the wilder times of the west alongside a story of two souls bonding on their journey through vast landscapes and free open spaces is the gentle escapism we all need right now.
A return to popularity for the Western genre
While many genres are often mooted as undergoing a ‘resurgence’ at various times, the western movie has never really died – quietly ticking along at regular intervals both in cinema and TV. That said, recent years have definitely seen punchier and less subtle reinventions, in strong contrast to the stereotypical ‘slow’ western style that we’re used to. Django Unchained and The Revenant have been among some of the more recent smash hit successes, and Justified, Westworld (even Breaking Bad) have kept our appetites whetted on TV. For the younger generations, Red Dead Redemption 2 has found a whole new audience for the western genre through gaming.
Can News of the World save cinema during a pandemic?
Reminiscent of the dynamic that made both versions of True Grit so popular, the premise of News of the World looks promising in the trailer, but will a western be enough to draw people back to the cinema? Due to open on Christmas Day, it seems ambitious to aim for a cinematic release during a pandemic. Tom Hanks has always been a reliable box office draw, but I suspect that even he wouldn’t be able to overcome what must be insurmountable odds. It also seems unlikely that anything less than a major blockbuster would be able to achieve the turnaround that cinemas across the world need right now (cinemas were devastated when the latest Bond movie was pulled from schedules).
News of the World appears to be a return to the slower pace of classic westerns, and this is why I doubt it will set the cinema alight – no matter how excellent the movie may turn out to be.
If you’d like to learn more about Westerns or other film genres, why not book a place on one of our next online film courses?
- Film Genres: The Western and Gangster Film
- Film Noir
- Cinematic New Waves: Global Developments in Film
(by Learn for Pleasure on 27th October 2020)