News…of the World!
BQB here with a review.
Of all the jobs in the Old West, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) has the coolest. He is the world’s first social media platform/news aggregating service. In other words, he wanders from town to town, reading articles from newspapers to townsfolk in exchange for their donations. In these pre-Netflix days, assembling to listen to a man read from a newspaper was apparently the height of entertainment.
During his travels, Kidd comes across a busted up wagon. An African American soldier has been attacked and hanged. His charge left to fend for herself? Johanna, a young white girl in Native American garb. She had been raised by the natives who attacked and killed her family. She speaks no English and her native family is the only family she has ever known.
Kidd takes it upon himself to go on a long trek to return the girl to finish the soldier’s mission and return her to her last known relatives, though it is a harrowing journey for sure. Kidd must fight his way through a vast assortment of Old West a-holes, from a pseudo-warlord trying to carve out a slice of Reconstruction era America for himself, where he serves as a type of cruel king, to a band of vile perverts who want to kidnap Johanna and sell her into a life of forced prostitution.
The captain, old, tired, and feeling as though he wasted his life and missed out on time with his wife to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War, would prefer to live his remaining years in solitude, doing most of his talking during his rousing news readings, only to reflect quietly when he is alone on his failed goals and lost dreams, his wish for a family of his own that never came to fruition.
He’d rather remain stuck in his rut, but he is the only one in this harsh world who cares enough to see the child gets to safety, and the skills needed to do so. His greatest adversary in all of this? Johanna herself, who is trapped between two worlds, unable to trust anyone, often running away, leaving her old caretaker with no choice but to chase after her.
Overall, the movie is Oscar bait. A history piece with some insight into the Reconstruction Era South. The Union Army weren’t fans of the Southerners they were sent to keep watch on. The Southerners felt likewise. In short, everyone was quite angry, yet against this backdrop, Kidd yearns for a sense of personal peace.
The plot is more or less just Kidd has to get the kid to safety, but has to fight a collection of a-holes to do so. Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s Mr. Nice Guy, carries the film, as Kidd is a character guided by morality. He could have pawned the kid off on any number of lawmen, church folk, etc. but knows he will be unable to live with himself until he completes the mission.