So News of the World (Universal 12.25) is a Searchers-like tale (bookish 60ish beardo paid to deliver precocious, parentless, Kiowa-raised girl to relatives in old San Antonio) with a touch of True Grit. All kinds of adversity and prejudice slow their progress, including white slave traders looking to exploit the poor girl.
Paul Greengrass‘s western is some kind of allegory, he says, for our presently divided culture. You don’t have to reassure me — Tom Hanks will do the right thing.
Amazon synopsis of Paulette Jiles’ same-titled 2016 novel: “In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kidd (Hanks) travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
“In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan, Johanna Loenberger (Helena Zengel), to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
“Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
“Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become — in the eyes of the law — a kidnapper himself.”