I run hot (Bloody Sunday) and cold (The Theory of Flight, United 93) with Paul Greengrass. News of the World lands somewhere in the middle. The subject is interesting (in 1870, a man travels from town to town reading newspapers to people), Tom Hanks gives his usual fine performance, and new-to-me German pre-teen Helena Zengel makes me want to watch more movies with her. The cast includes all-time "that guys" Ray McKinnon and Bill Camp. The film looks great (Dariusz Wolski is the Director of Cinematography). If you don't count the Toy Story franchise, the is the first Western for Hanks. So why does News of the World ultimately seem so inconsequential?
Everybody likes Tom Hanks. We especially like him around here because he grew up about 15 miles from where I did. And no one denies his acting chops, although his Oscars came in lesser films. He has played astronaut Jim Lovell, Walt Disney, Sully Sullenberger, Ben Bradlee, and Mister Rogers. Sometimes I wonder if Hanks wouldn't like to play a bad guy, like Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West. Point is, you see Tom Hanks, you're already on his character's side.
But News of the World might have benefitted from a bit more darkness. Admittedly, the entire situation surrounding the young German girl is ominous, and it shows on her face ... she really is the best thing about the movie. But Greengrass, screenwriter Luke Davies, and Hanks never go the extra step, which is another way of saying, this film is very carefully rated PG-13.
Doesn't really matter ... it's a good movie with Oscar bait for Hanks (and, if there is any justice, for Zengel).