Tom Hanks has always had an affinity for the printed word (he is crazy for typewriters], so the idea of playing a guy in 1870 who goes from town to town in Texas reading the newspaper to people must have had immediate appeal. Working again with director Paul Greengrass was also certainly an attraction.

Despite some early exposition (Hanks reading aloud to a child who speaks no English), the film’s premise is established early: Hanks is handed the obligation to get an orphan delivered to safety.

The film looks great; the squalor and turmoil after the Civil War is palpable. The scenes of Hanks reading the news serve the dual purpose of placing the times in context for the viewer and revealing the defeated Texans’ rage at being subjugated by rich Yankees.

The film taps into many of the required conventions of the Western, a genre Hollywood has generally eschewed lately.

A loner has an obligation pressed on him, and he presses on against man and nature.

Hanks has stepped into boots worn admirably before by Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck and Joel McCrea.

Hanks honed his soliloquy chops in Cast Away two decades ago. Here, however, the odd couple begin to communicate. As played by the beguiling Helena Zengel, the orphan’s Kiowa upbringing belies her blond hair, blue eyed origins.

The cinematography (Dariusz Wolski) is great, as are the overall production values. Greengrass is no stranger to action sequences, and he stages many gripping scenes.

What made his Bourne films so compelling was the premise of a relatively ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

That theme is woven through News of the World.

But what makes the film even more timely is its treatment of sadly timeless issues like fear of factual news reporting and xenophobia.

Trailer here.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.