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Universal’s News of the World is the second collaboration between director Paul Greengrass and Oscar-winning Argo editor William Goldenberg following their 2018 feature about a terrorist attack, 22 July. For Goldenberg, a favorite scene in this post-Civil War Western is a nail-biting action sequence that is elevated by the fact that it moves the movie forward by establishing the bond between Tom Hanks’ Captain Kidd and his young charge, Johanna, played by Helena Zengel.
The story follows Kidd, who volunteers to return Johanna, who had been kidnapped by the Kiowa, to her family. In a scene early in the film, the pair, who have yet to forge a real rapport, leave a Texas town in a horse-drawn wagon, with three bitter ex-soldiers led by Almay (Michael Angelo Covino) in hot pursuit. The men want the girl “we assume for prostitution,” says Goldenberg. “Tom Hanks’ character tries to get off the road and find cover.”
The chase moves from the wagon to a pursuit on foot. A gunfight begins, with Kidd and Johanna taking cover behind a large rock, and one henchman is killed.
“There’s a wonderful moment in the middle of the shooting when Kidd looks at Johanna with this look of, ‘Why does this little girl have to go through this?’ She’s an orphan twice, basically, in her life, and now there are these guys trying to come after her. You see how desperate he is and how arduous a situation it’s going to be.”
In his cut, Goldenberg selected takes in which the actors demonstrate fear and distress and tell much of the story through their eyes. “Those moments of nonverbal communication are really powerful and to the credit of the actors,” he says.
As the scene progresses, the situation becomes more dire. “He tells her to ‘Run, get away while you can,’ and he’ll try and hold them off as long as he can,” the editor explains. “But unbeknownst to him, she has an idea.” She runs to the wagon and grabs the dimes that Kidd has earned by reciting the news of the day from newspapers as he travels from town to town. “She shows him how the dimes fit perfectly into a shotgun shell. He sees something special in her for having thought of that.”
Kidd lures the enemy closer, letting them believe he will surrender. “Tom has a shotgun loaded like a cannon. So just as the bad guy goes for his gun, Kidd pulls up his shotgun and blows the guy away.” With only Almay left, the battle concludes with a tense chase through a section of large rocks. “The scene had a little bit of everything,” Goldenberg notes. “It had the chasing, it had the cat and mouse, it had the shootout. It had a lot of different layers and a lot of emotion.
“To me, what’s most important in an action scene is the interpersonal — what’s going on with the characters.”
This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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