MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, January 15th. We’re so glad you’ve turned to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a new movie about a man on a mission to bring the news to a nation still reeling from its greatest conflict.
It’s 1870 and the Civil War has settled the greatest argument our nation has ever engaged in, through the bloody clash of state against state, brother against brother. But that doesn’t mean America has put resentment and division behind it. No one knows this better than Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, played by Tom Hanks. He rides a circuit of Western outposts, synthesizing stories from newspapers all across the country and retelling them in engaging fashion to disconnected townsfolk who pay a dime a head to gather and listen. He is, in essence, an Old West beta version of a news anchor.
Kidd is so good at his job he manages to persuade a group of bitter Texas isolationists to see themselves in the suffering and triumph of some Northern Yankee coal miners.
CLIP: I’m here to tell you about the 11 men who lived. Who survived that fire. Who fought back against their deadly fate. I thought I told you to read from the Erath paper. See Mr. Farley, I was wondering if folks might prefer some storytelling from places outside of Erath. Just for tonight Mr. Farley. I think you had a read from the Erath all the same Captain. Sort of thing these people expect to hear. How about we vote on it? All those who want me to read for Mr. Farley‘s Erath journal. Now all those who want me to keep on with the story of the men in the mine.
But he needs every ounce of his rhetorical and martial skills when he agrees to transport an orphaned German girl to her relatives in California. She’s been living with the Kiowa tribe so long she’s forgotten her native language.
CLIP: Do you see that bird? Bird. Bird. Yeah. Yes, good. Good. Guto. Bird is Guto. Buffalo. Since you’re so smart. Prickly pear cactus. There’s some sage. Sage, yeah, that’s right. It smells good. So what else can you teach me?
As Kidd and little Johanna make their way across the dusty trails, the film becomes a classic Odyssey story. Each town, each bend in the road, offers some new threat to escape or riddle to solve. Yet within this simple, quiet plot is a world of emotional complexity.
In movies like Sully and Greyhound, Hanks has shown he’s more than capable of carrying an action-heavy film. But News of the World proves he can successfully channel his inner-Eastwood as well. He trades fire and steely barbs with a pack of outlaws without sacrificing any of his innate fatherliness and warmth. The shootouts, mild for the genre, and a few instances of profanity earn a PG-13 rating.
CLIP: Hey, you’re good for a man of your years. But aren’t you just so damn tired of all this? Help me. Didn’t you have body and soul broke out there? Seems an awful shame for it to end like this when you could just join us. This world is Rich Pickens for Sam but slim pickings for the rest of us. God dammit. You go. Take the horses and go. I shoot you go.
But Kidd’s more important weapon is empathy. “I hear you. We’re all hurting,” he tells a mob of angry ex-Confederates. It’s hard to recall any other recent film showing its hero making a connection with characters like this. They likely would have established Kidd’s goodness by having him give a blistering speech of condemnation. But of course he can’t. Because he was a Confederate too.
Perhaps that’s why when confronted with the horror of how Johanna came to lose her family and live with the Natives—there are whispers of defenseless throats cut, babies brains dashed out—he’s able to counsel, if not precisely forgiveness, at least a determination not to pursue perpetual enmity. He knows the past always provides enough sins to go around, and the only hope for the future is for everyone to move forward with grace.