Five years after the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a veteran of three wars, now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. In the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she’s never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home.
This is a good solid western enhanced by the presence of Tom Hanks as former Confederate Captain Kidd who now tours the Texas towns of 1870 reading the news to the illiterate populace. These are dangerous times and Kidd, being a former Confederate has to be wary of the Army still suppressing any rebels. One day he chances upon a young white girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel) abandoned after the Indians who captured her have themselves been massacred and finds he has to take her on the long trek to her German immigrant relations. This is essentially a journey film with dangers along the way, not least from some vicious men who want the girl for themselves, and there's some of director Paul Greengrass' visceral action although overall the film is a restrained affair concentrating instead on the relationship between the curmudgeonly Kidd and the frightened girl. There's been a few westerns that focus on the issue of white captives, either the rescue of them or their reintegration into white society with all the prejudice that accompanied that but this story deals with neither issue and is more about a lonely man and an abandoned child bonding. To that extent this is watchable, entertaining but a little bland. Worth seeing for Hanks inevitably sound performance and Zengel's excellent one as the girl who has been orphaned effectively twice.
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