Tom Hanks has cornered the market as a Captain – Soldier, Sailor, Pilot – and here takes a step back in time to satisfy his Western fix.
“Captain Kidd” (Tom Hanks) a civil war veteran is an itinerant reader of the news, ambling from small town to even smaller settlement. He reads snippets from recent newspapers, to folks starved of news who may not be able to read themselves, as education passed them by.
Kidd tailors the news to his audience, adding spice or matters of import as the situation dictates, audience sat in quiet attention unless it gets political. At the tail end of the American civil war, everything is political, with tempers running high and racial tensions at boiling point, echoing current US politics, intentionally or otherwise.
When Kidd stumbles across a twice orphaned young girl “Johanna” (Helena Zengel), his world rapidly changes. Raised by the Kiowa people, despite having a European settler start in life, she finds herself on her own for a second time. Kidd decides to take the young girl home to the only family she has left and commences what could be a perilous journey.
Where previously time was his own and danger largely avoided, suddenly Kidd has responsibility thrust upon him, looking after a child in a hostile, unforgiving environment.
Hanks brings his usual calm, comforting demeanor to the film, managing to appear believable in any role he undertakes and this is no exception. He is matched by his young co-star acting with her eyes and body language, substituting for the minimal dialogue allocated to her role, mostly not in English.
The West is portrayed as dirty, dangerous and, at the tail of the war, lawless outside town environs. Kidd has his own emotional baggage to carry around, war time memories and regrets about his wife still many miles away in San Antonio.
The film is directed by Paul Greengrass, famous for his frenetic fight sequences in the Jason Bourne movies but here dials the story back to a more leisurely pace, with what action there is staged in an non-cinematic style. This is arguably more realistic but not as dramatic as Hollywood shoot outs tend to be.
There is some dodgy stunt and CGI work with a stagecoach crash and dust-storm respectively, but represent minor quibbles in what is a solid story with decent acting from both leads. Good to see a particular smile at the end of the film, neatly encapsulating the journey the character has traveled.
The film feels a bit middle of the road, not quite fulfilling its potential, somewhat safe and suited to the streaming platform, whether it would have felt more cinematic on the big screen is debatable.
It would be difficult to make a movie with Tom Hanks as the lead and fail, this movie again proving that theory. Solid casting, a decent albeit somewhat predictable story, provides an enjoyable couple of hours of entertainment.
Great to see Hanks in another different genre, hopefully he has another harder edged Western role in his future career.