Talking Movies: News of the World, Official Secrets and One Child Nation

Spling reviews News of the World, Official Secrets and One Child Nation as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a western adventure drama, a political biographical drama and a startling documentary.

Starting off with a film on Netflix…


A Civil War veteran turned news reader endures a perilous journey after agreeing to deliver an orphaned girl to her extended family.

Director: Paul Greengrass

Stars: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel and Tom Astor

– News of the World is a western adventure drama based on a novel with a reprisal of the Captain Phillips actor-director duo Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass.
– The co-lead dynamic between a veteran and orphan is similar to the recent George Clooney film, Midnight Sky.
– Surprisingly in over four decades of acting, the “every man” actor Tom Hanks has never made a proper western.
– Toning down the Stetson, giving him a role as a travelling news reader and making him a retired Captain makes it work handsomely.
– Hanks and the convincing Zengel have a workable on-screen chemistry.
– Stumbling upon Johanna, one small rescue mission turns into a slightly bigger one as Captain Kidd becomes a father figure to the lost child.
– The drama is mostly driven by Hanks, who is used to carrying films and playing opposite “quiet” co-leads.
– Allowing Hanks to steer the emotional course, Greengrass plies himself with the adventure, whipping up a great deal of suspense and surprise.
– Made to look like everything simply exists, the film has weight backed by rich sound and aural environments that are so well-integrated you hardly notice them at all.
– It’s a fine production, led by a stalwart lead and a budding new talent, offering a thoughtful and unconventional western adventure drama for contemporary audiences. Playing into some stereotypes, yet nuanced enough to exist beyond them, News of the World continues to suggest that Greengrass is a solid bet and that drama thrillers are his strength.
– Dipping into some slightly more pensive dramatic territory, Greengrass never loses the reins and backed by Tom Hanks… even slightly wayward storytelling can’t derail this sturdy and handsomely mounted western.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film on Showmax…


The true story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal move designed to sanction the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Director: Gavin Hood

Stars: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith and Ralph Fiennes

– South Africa’s Gavin Hood has proven himself as a versatile and reliable director after his days of Tsotsi, having delivered films such as Ender’s Game, Rendition, Eye in the Sky and now Official Secrets.
– His latest film is biographical in nature, dealing with Katharine Gun, a whistleblower whose stoic response to government bullying and legal tactics become central in this morality drama.
– Hinging on the bad intel that led to the search for weapons of mass destruction, it would help if you saw the satirical German political drama, Curveball.
– Highlighting key moments in the buildup of Gun’s legal proceedings, Official Secrets serves as a chronicle, gathering momentum by using dramatic turning points as footholds.
– While it starts off a little slowly, the film improves in direct proportion to Keira Knightley’s screen time, owing to a full-fledged performance.
– Not going for complete authenticity, the dramatic licence goes beyond the appearance of things to get to grips with the weight of one woman’s actions on behalf of the people.
– Hood’s drama is compelling thanks to his steady hand, a powerful and timely true story and a forthright performance from Knightley.
– This backroom politics drama isn’t flashy, opting to remain anchored in the corridors of justice with a solemn and thought-provoking mood.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a documentary on Amazon Prime…


A filmmaker uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy.

Directors: Nanfu Wang, Zhang Lynn

– Originally called Born in China, Nanfu Wang’s documentary deals with the legacy of China’s horrifying and controversial one-child policy.
– Taken from a Chinese filmmaker’s perspective, we get a fascinating, introspective and almost unfiltered view of China.
– This unique angle is almost enough to sustain the documentary even if it’s subject wasn’t so disturbing.
– Through the lens of her own biography, she investigates stories close to her family and how the policy affected their lives branching out to a wider national angle.
– Controlled through propaganda, enforced by family planning officials and carried out with a false sense of altruism, One Child Nation scratches the surface in an attempt to acknowledge the failings, relive the history and capture the mixed feelings over the policy’s efficacy.
– Interviewing family members, artists, former officials and mothers who had their children taken away from them before being sterilised, it’s a challenging documentary that recalls The Act of Killing.
– Blinded by entrenched propaganda or the country’s cultural obsession with continuing their family legacy through a son at all costs, it’s a heartbreaking and harrowing film where there are no winners.
– One Child Nation delves into the country’s sketchy adoption process history and underhanded orphanage transactions revealing many red flags.
– A harbinger of sorts, it reveals the catastrophic and unconscionable policy in a bid to commemorate the unborn and offer alarming context to their government’s not-so-new family planning agenda.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

NEWS OF THE WORLD… a fine lead performance and immersive qualities anchor this suspenseful and contemporary if wayward western adventure… A solid 7!

OFFICIAL SECRETS… a thoughtful lead, an impassioned cast, steady direction and a powerful true story compel this important and stirring morality drama… A solid 7!

ONE CHILD NATION… a powerful and harrowing documentary that offers an intimate and overarching perspective on China’s diabolical one-child policy experiment… An excellent 8!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!