Hanks has reunited with his Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass. He’s playing a former Confederate Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in 1870 Reconstruction-era Texas. Captain Kidd makes a living traveling from town to town, reading news stories from all over the nation to local farmers and tenants. He makes a good living to pay for his long journey home to his native San Antonio.
Captain Kidd was once a printer, and was pressed into military service at the start of the Civil War. He fought because he loved his home state, not necessarily because he believed in the cause. The memories of the war are not pleasant.
Kidd stumbles across an overturned stagecoach in his travels to the next town. There he finds a Native American man hanging from a tree and a scared young girl named Johanna (Zengel), who was to be transported to her nearest relative. We learn Johanna’s parents were killed, and Native Americans raised her. She speaks a little of her native German, but mostly Kiowa. Kidd and Johanna slowly learn to trust each other. They also learn to communicate as they encounter problems on their odyssey to their destinations.
Both Kidd and Johanna are wounded by their past and find the only way to move forward is to confront their demons. Hanks plays a character similar to his Capt. Miller in Saving Private Ryan (1998), although News of the World takes place roughly seventy-five years before Ryan’s events. Like Miller, Kidd is a quiet man transformed by war who fought because it was his duty. He reads the news because he feels it does some good for others.
I’ve said many times that Tom Hanks is one of the few actors we would follow into hell if he led us there. He has in many films, and in News of the World, it’s like taking a journey with an old friend we trust. It is why Hanks is such a remarkable actor. His presence can elevate sometimes mediocre material.