Saturday 7 May 2011

Review: Hanna

Year: 2011
Director: Joe Wright
Screenplay: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander

Where do I start? Where do I begin?* With my opinions on films like Knight and Day, Battle L.A, Sucker Punch, The Expendables...I wouldn't be surprised if people felt I'm adverse to most action films as a whole. I'm sure some of my regular visitors to my web site garble (yes, I'm surprised too) expect a certain amount of negativity from the guy who really enjoyed Archipelago....

However, after emerging from the darkness of my now new regular cinema (which I may add is very old) I do  think it will be safe to say that for me that Joe Wright's Hanna may very well be one of the films I'll still be yammering on about at the end of the year.

I describe Hanna as a teenage female Bourne flick with a fairytale structure. I do not use the Bourne similarity lightly, as the films main story and Euro/Africa destination jumping give that same feel to the proceedings as the spy trilogy. The fairytale aspect is also a large part of the film, borrowing heavily from Snow White (hell even the first landscape is in white snow.). So much so that the characters that we see aren't so much symbols of the grim fairy tale...they are those people. Implanting fairy tale elements into modern day "real" (I use that term very loosely) features isn't anything new. However, for me it's the innocence that is infused into it's lead character that separates this from some of the other modern fairy tale imaginings. Yes she is carefully taught to be a killer, but when Hanna is removed from her closed off world and shoved into our one, she becomes a blank slate.

The way she is taken and once again remoulded is a profoundly liberating. The film's focus never wavers from this fact and constructs it's appeal from this. Yes, the film is fuelled with grandiose sequences (an amazing ship cargo bay scene I found particularly arresting) but the connection to Hanna, her coming of age, and her having to try and understand and navigate this alien world is the allure. The down time with Hanna meeting a family with a girl her own age is a telling one, highlighting that teenage disconnect that many feel while also adding to that the confusing nature of what she has been told by her father. The strikingly choreographed action almost happens to be an added bonus. Wright however doesn't skimp however with the all the action not only having a sense of place but coming off off the films more quiet moments. The set pieces pop off like springs and is extremely satisfying.

Wright's ace in the hole however, is the dazzlingly mature performance from Saoirse Ronan. It's true that I wasn't armoured with Ronan in The Lovely Bones but her display in this reminds me that that may have greatly due to the character and material rather than Ronan. She is magnificent here, balancing the strength and force of her character with the emotional fragility it deserves. Reviews have stated the similarities being Hanna and Kick-Ass' hit girl and it is true. However the affecting aspect of Ronan's performance tips the bar carrying a movie that is actually quite scant on plot details (it tells you enough to keep you enticed) and based more on her characters feelings. Wright has stated that he was inspired by David Lynch on the movie and constructing the movie this way really shows it, as does the brilliant sound design.

Which begins me to the thumping score given to us by the Chemical Brothers. Wright, The Brothers and the various sound designers build a stylish sonic landscape that ebbs and flows beautifully with the image (Alwin H. Kuchler's cinematography is so wonderfully crisp). This is a score that manages to do what Daft Punks Tron score: get me involved. The music of the film (often accompanied by in film sounds by items and character merging with with the music) does't distract, it excites, becoming an integral part of the films DNA.

This is why I enjoyed Hanna so much, because while the film isn't fresh or original from a story or thematic standpoint, the combination of Wrights clean, swift direction of the piece, the thumping techno sound scape and absorbing lead performance come off almost effortless. I haven't even got around to the efficiently creepy turns from Cate Blanchett and Tom Hollander who are both wonderfully sinister (loved how the well the two work in sometimes ghoulish visages in combination with Wright's well placed camera. There's also a neat stoic role for Eric Bana.**

Hanna was almost perfect for a movie goer like myself. It slips from action to drama without difficulty, it shrugs off it's unoriginality and sketchy plot with well drawn out themes, strong character and visual flair. The music is immediate and kept me in the moment and I adored the films quiet loud quiet rhythm. Hanna doesn't say much different, but it has the ability to be more articulate when it's shouting it's message from the hills.

*Yes it's a reference.
**Much as been said about the odd accents but considering the film is based within a fairytale world and structure...I really wouldn't worry about it.