In the years following the Civil War, Captain Kidd must work hard to rebuild a life similar to the one he once had. Before the war, he was a printer, but now he travels from town to town reading the news to “anyone with 10 cents” and a desire to listen. On one of his journeys, Kidd stumbles upon a hanging man and a child left behind after his murder—it appears that this man was transporting the young German girl back to her family after the Indian family who raised her was killed for their land. With no one to care for young Johanna, Captain Kidd takes it upon himself to bring her home, thus embarking on a difficult journey of self-reflection and love.
While News of the World is a fantastic movie overall, there are quite a few red flags that pop up frequently. Racism is the first big issue addressed in the film—in addition to constant racial slurs throughout, one of the very first scenes depicts a black man hanging in a tree with a sign that reads “Texas says no, this is a white man’s county.” Child objectification is also a major issue. Johanna is seen as a sexual object by many; in fact, one major gunfight occurs because Kidd refused to sell Johanna to a group of men who wanted to buy her. These men suggest that Kidd must have been so “lucky” to travel alone with the girl. There is also a scene that shows skinned buffalo lying on the ground and references to murdering Native American’s for their land. As hard as it may be to watch these horrific things, it is also eye opening to get a glimpse into what the world looked like post-Civil War.
As far as filmography, News of the World features an outstanding picture and great audio. The film does, however, employ some unsteady camerawork, which is intentional but not enjoyable for everyone. There are some inconsistencies withing the plot as well: Kidd is able to skip the line at the market in the beginning and he seems to get some preferable treatment. (SPOLIER!) And, at the end of the film he just goes back to the farm and takes Johanna with no argument or explanation—it’s strange. Also, since Johanna does not speak English, subtitles are necessary, but they only show them about three quarters of the time which becomes a bit confusing towards the end of the movie.
When Kidd initially decides to bring Johanna home, he does so begrudgingly. Johanna is also poorly behaved and makes Kidd’s journey that much more difficult. Over time, however, the two develop a father/daughter type relationship, which allows them to conquer even the most horrific obstacles. All of the things mentioned above are red flags, but they are also indicative of the time period from which this movie comes. Viewers should expect to be uncomfortable with the social injustices depicted but they should also recognize how far society has come since that time. As a historical fiction film, News of the World does a brilliant job of bringing Civil War era society together with individual character growth and unity among unlikely allies.
Due to heavy language, violence, and social injustice, News of the World is Not Dove-approved.
The Dove Take:
News of the World shares a feel-good message of love and loyalty in the midst of chaos and spite after the Civil War, but heavy language, violence, and social injustice aren’t suitable for many audiences.