Friday, April 8, 2011

HANNA Review

"Hanna" (2011)

Here's a film that easily could've fallen flat on its face. Director Joe Wright--who's best known for his dramatic period pieces such as "Pride and Prejudice" and Best Picture nominee "Atonement"--taking on the action genre for the first time with a young star at its center. The trailer made it look weird, like it might not pan out into something successful. It being weird remains true, but it also is a successful triumph for the director. It's very much like nothing you've seen before, the most audacious piece of cinema you'll find in theaters as of late, and it's brilliant. Maybe a bold claim, but here are some reasons to back it up.

1. It's an ingenious mash-up
Joe Wright provides us a superb combination of genres. It's an action thriller, art house fare and a twisted fairy tale fantasy all in one. Again, something that could've fallen flat on its face, but Wright and his writers--David Farr, Joe Penhall and Seth Lochhead--breathe life into a titillating premise in strange and perversely delightful ways. While holding true to Hollywood tropes of a chase thriller, Wright also breaks them down re-serving them up in unexpected and unorthodox ways.

2. There's Saoirse Ronan
This young actress who captivated us with her eyes alone in "Atonement" leading the way through the turbulent waves of emotion holds her own again up against A-list actors. Saoirse Ronan is phenomenal playing the fierce miniature warrior Hanna--just 16 years old--who's out to save her own skin. Growing up in the woods with her father, Erik (Eric Bana), she learned to fight, kill and protect herself against danger. We're introduced to her just as she has shot an arrow into a giant deer. "I just missed your heart," she whispers to the dying creature in her soft German accent.

Hanna is a mystery to us, her origins unclear even to herself. Her father used to be a covert agent, and now he knows something that makes him a wanted man in the eyes of one CIA officer, Marissa (Cate Blanchett). This woman also wants Hanna. With an albino look and quick intellect, Ronan as Hanna captivates us all over again just as she did back in 2007.

3. The action looks good and has purpose
Taking note from "Run Lola Run," Hanna partakes in a lot of fleeing and escaping given her desperate circumstances. This is going to lead to a lot of action, and not only that but action that matters. In an interview, Wright expressed his worries about directing the action sequences in the film. An unnecessary worry because the action is swift, enthralling and exquisitely shot. The entire film is visually sumptuous with stylish flourishes that heighten the already crisp and proficient filmmaking. There is one scene where Erik is tailed, which is entirely one long shot reminiscent of that infamous shot from "Atonement"--it works wonders here, too.

All the pieces of action are creative, well-implemented and are set to an electrically charged score from the Chemical Brothers. Thanks to the music, a whole new feel emerges such as when Hanna breaks out of the concrete CIA facility set to a thumping beat and flashing strobe lights. There's purpose to Hanna's plight in these moments of excitement and suspense, and through them the film even finds instances of quirky wit and poetic beauty.

4. It's both sinister and human
Cate Blanchett plays Marissa as cold and soulless, and it fits. With a severe look, sharp business attire, devilish red hair and painfully good dental hygiene, she is a clear cut villain in the story. She hires a dastardly man to help her seek out Hanna. This odd-looking man whistles what sounds like a children's nursery rhyme, but he does so in such repetition that it turns dark and menacing.

Against all this sinister energy pursuing Hanna is the humanity found in an eclectic caravanning British family she comes across during her journey. Headed by the lovely Olivia Williams, the family consists of a young girl around the same age as Hanna named Sophie (Jessica Barden). She's the first girl her age Hanna has met, and she begins to learn what it's really like to be a young carefree girl and to have a friend. This moment of grounding Hanna's life in reality really makes us feel for her; we feel bad that no matter what she does, she'll be forced back into life as a fugitive.

5. It's a Grimm fairy tale
What's best about Joe Wright's "Hanna" is how it wraps itself up as a Grimm fairy tale. Hanna's final destination takes her to meet an elder man in what looks like a shack inspired by a gingerbread house, maybe Hansel and Gretel. It's in the middle of some bizarre abandoned amusement park clouded in mist. And when Hanna and Marissa finally come face to face, Marissa emerges from the mouth of a giant wolf head as if she herself were the big bad wolf and Hanna, little red riding hood. Take that, Catherine Hardwicke.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds good. Wish I could see it (have to wait until June). I love your last line: "Take that, Catherine Hardwicke." I dislike her films a lot.

    Lovely review!