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News of the World (2020) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.

  • 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. On 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.

  • Five years after the end of the Civil War, Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd crosses paths with a 10-year-old girl taken by the Kiowa people. Forced to return to her aunt and uncle, Kidd agrees to escort the child across the harsh and unforgiving plains of Texas. However, the long journey soon turns into a fight for survival as the traveling companions encounter danger at every turn -- both human and natural.

  • Wandering from town to town, only five years after the end of the Civil War, the grizzled former Confederate Army officer, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, travels the dusty and dangerous roads of 1870 Texas to make a living. For the price of a dime, gentle Kyle, dressed in his impeccable suit, informs and entertains the people, reading the latest news and recounting captivating stories of exotic, far-off places from his pile of newspapers, knowing, however, that some wounds never heal. Then, on one of his travels, the irresistible storyteller comes across the gruesome scene of a murder, and encounters the abducted ten-year-old orphan, Johanna: now, the proud daughter of the Kiowa nomadic warriors, Turning Water and Three Spotted. To reunite the savage girl with her only surviving kin, patient Jefferson is willing to brave the perils of the long journey back and risk life and limb for twice-orphaned Johanna. But, amid harsh territories once divided by war, what will it take to find this orphan a home?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In 1870, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a former member of the Confederate Infantry who now makes a living traveling town to town reading newspapers for the populace for ten cents per person. Following one such evening of news reading, Kidd sets out for his next location when he encounters an overturned wagon on the road. Dismounting to investigate further, he encounters a lynched black man and a young white girl named Johanna who is dressed in Native American clothing. After an encounter with a Union Army patrol, Kidd is instructed to take the girl to Union officials at a checkpoint in a town up the road where they will sort out her Bureau of Indian Affairs paperwork and see to it she is returned to her surviving family. Reluctantly, Kidd acquiesces to the request.

    At the Union checkpoint Kidd is informed that the Bureau of Indian Affairs representative is on the reservation and will be unavailable for three months. Seeking shelter with a former Confederate infantryman, Kidd reads the news and upon returning, begrudgingly accepts responsibility for returning the girl to her surviving family. As the two set out they attempt to find common ground, but neither one has much success in communicating with the other. This is further compounded at the next stop, when Kidd is confronted by three ex-Confederate soldiers turned criminals who express an interest in purchasing the girl from Kidd. Kidd refuses, but the three men pursue, leading to a shootout in the wilderness during which Johanna and Kidd overcome obstacles to work together for self-preservation.

    At the next stop, Kidd encounters a radical band of militia working to "cleanse" the county from "outsiders". Kidd is contracted to read the approved news from the town's leader, but instead opts to read from a different paper about a group of coal miners who rally against a cruel man whose refusal to abide by safety standards put his miners in jeopardy. Kidd's story incites civil unrest, and ultimately results in Johanna gunning down the town's leader and rescuing Kidd. In the aftermath, Kidd and Johanna join a wagon train bound for a town with the railroad line before veering off to locate Johanna's surviving family. During the journey Kidd's wagon is destroyed, leaving Johanna and Kidd to continue on foot until the pair encounter Kiowa tribesmen from whom Johanna is able to obtain a horse.

    Kidd and Johanna eventually reach her aunt and uncle's farmstead, the former revealing that Johanna's parents had struck out on their own and moved to hill country where the land would be cheaper; this led to them being killed in a Kiowa raid. Kidd reluctantly leaves Johanna (who is resistant) with them, and returns to San Antonio. His wife, Maria Luisa Betancourt Kidd, died from cholera in 1865. Now without any kin, he visits the mission where she is buried, and mournfully leaves his wedding ring and locket containing her picture on her grave.

    Kidd then rides back to the village where he left Johanna, where he finds her tied to a pole, her belligerent aunt and uncle explaining that she refused to work and would instead run off. Asking forgiveness, Kidd tells Johanna (in Kiowa) that she belongs with him. Johanna accepts; her aunt and uncle reluctantly let them go. In an epilogue, Kidd reads the papers at another pulpit, with Johanna helping out on sound effects and bearing a new name: Johanna Kidd.

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