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“System sprinkler” Helena Zengel steals the show from Tom Hanks

In Paul Greengrass’ new film, Tom Hanks traveled through Texas as an ex-soldier in 1870 and reads from the newspaper to the illiterate population. But one of them steals the show from him: the twelve-year-old young German actress Helena Zengel.

From Philipp Emberger

Five years after the end of the American Civil War, which deeply divided the country between North and South, Captain Jefferson Kylee Kidd chugs through the southern states with his horses. For a few cents, the former soldier reads aloud to the population from the latest newspapers and thus provides the population with the latest gossip.

One day, on his way to the next town, he meets a wild girl who is initially skeptical of him. As it turns out, the orphaned child is called Johanna Leonberger (played by Helena Zengel) and was kidnapped by the indigenous Kiowa a few years ago. The Kiowa tribe was killed and the blonde girl was orphaned for the second time. His last living German relatives live far away.

Despite problems communicating, the melancholy, good-natured captain takes young Johanna with him to reunite her with aunt and uncle. For the unusual duo, a journey through the southern states of the USA begins, during which both have to face their demons.

Although the film is set in 1870, Tom Hanks looks somehow the same with a gray beard and colorless clothes. But that doesn’t matter, because next to the German actress Helena Zengel, the film star looks a bit pale anyway. Zengel’s role consists of little text; having grown up with the Kiowa, she does not understand her new guardian. So the two of them have to communicate with hands and feet.

Tom Hanks in News of the World, film still

Universal Pictures

Tom Hanks in “News of the World”

Superstar Helena Zengel

The twelve-year-old German Helena Zengel caused a stir in the film “Systemsprenger” at the Berlinale in 2019. In it, she plays a nine-year-old girl with aggressive behavior and correspondingly regular freaking out. For this performance, the Berliner Zengel was highly praised and this achievement brings her her first Hollywood engagement. This is followed by the first Golden Globe nomination for her fourth feature film.

News of the World, Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel

Universal Pictures

Helena Zengel and Tom Hanks in “News of the World”

The parallels to “Systemsprenger” are obvious, in the Netflix Western the young actress has to fill her role with facial expressions and gestures as well. A great task for the young actress, which she more than masters. She brings the inner workings of her character across so convincingly that the scenes with her are the highlights of the film and the solo scenes by Tom Hanks, on the other hand, make it appear laboriously one-dimensional.

However, director Paul Greengrass will have to put up with the criticism that the focus of the drama is too much on the captain and that the role of the young Kiowa girl is mainly used to support the white, old man on his heroic journey.

News of the World movie poster

Universal Pictures

“News of the World” can be seen on Netflix.

(In-) voluntarily current

Greengrass, who was responsible for “Captain Phillips” and three of the five “Jason Bourne” films in the past, is working on an (in) voluntarily topical topic with “News of the World”. The images of the storming of the Capitol by a right-wing extremist mob are not yet old, and yet they have already become symbols of a divided American society.

The western film takes up the topic of division. “Texas first,” says a representative of the southern states at one point in the film. That is why an interpretation of the film as a current commentary is an obvious one. The film duo gets into the similarly heated mood of the post-war period. In addition to dad vibes, Tom Hanks also delivers a lot of forgiveness, and that makes “News of the World” a quiet, solid western with road movie elements, beautiful landscape shots, a current topic, a lot of heart and a star named Helena Zengel.

Sonia Gupta
Soniya Gupta, who joined the Technical University in October 2015, continues his education life at Technical University. As the passion for aviation increases day by day, it has a great interest in technology and gaming.


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