April 12, 2011

Movie Review: Hanna

I do believe that this may be my favorite Joe Wright film. Granted I have not seen his well regarded Pride & Prejudice and he does only have four films to his name, the fact remains this is a spectacular film. Hanna is a movie that delivers the goods. It has style, character, story, and it doesn't treat the audience like brain dead idiots. Sure, it may not be the deepest or most epic of tales, but it is told with a sincere and genuine beauty. With Hanna the action-thriller comes face to face with the arthouse to create a new cinematic fairy tale. It really is something to behold.

The titular Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl who has been trained as an assassin and survivalist while isolated in the wilderness with her father, Erik (Eric Bana). It is pretty clear early on through Erik's firm handed discipline and training that he had to have been some sort of super spy or assassin himself. This turns out to be true, he was, but he is also a caring father who loves his daughter and has given her all the tools she needs to survive.

At a certain point it comes time for her to be flung from the nest and tested in the real world. Unfortunately, this involves gaining the attention of FBI Agent Marissa Veigler (Cate Blanchett in cool as ice mode). This leads to a series of intricate chases across Europe that keep us on our toes as both Hanna and Erik are being targeted.

The action-thriller chase backbone of the film serves as a perfect clothesline to hang the story and character bits. We learn of the history between Marissa, Erik, and Hanna. There is talk of government conspiracies and cover ups, all of which is interesting and not entirely spelled out. Hanna is sue to leave lots of questions as to who these people were and what brought them to the events of the movie. Yes, there is enough explained, but not so much as to be annoying or to drag down the film.

Hanna is a fascinating character, clearly has the tools to survive and is not afraid of using them when she has to. What really makes her stand out are the quiet moments. She is not always kicking ass. There are many times when are just with her as she ties to make her way to the rendezvous point to meet up with her father. We are reminded that is just a sixteen year old girl and it is not quite that easy to travel alone. On top of that, we see her interact with an English family on vacation, the touchy/feely, no boundaries. It is in these actions that we are further reminded of her being raised in isolation, she is a young girl who has never heard music much less had a friend her own age. This helps expand on Hana beyond being the butt-kicking assassin type. Daddy may have trained her exceptionally well, but he also robbed her of being a person in a society and being someone of her age.

This really is an engrossing film. From the moment the film starts I was intrigued by Hanna, curious as to what made her tick, interested by why her father chose to raise her this way, and wondering why Veigler was so intent on getting her hands on the girl. Layer by layer, piece by piece the picture is put together, leaving enough space for you to fill in some of the gaps.

Director Joe Wright does a wonderful job of telling what could have been a conventional tale in a non-conventional fashion. He gives it a nice pace, allowing for pulse pounding action (joined with The Chemical Brothers score) as well as quieter moments that allow for insight into the characters. The screenplay by Seth Lochhead (based on his story) and David Farr is one of exhilarating and quiet beauty. The whole project has a bit of a graphic novel come to life feel, while being a original creation.

Beyond the writing and direction, the acting has to be given its due. Saoirse Ronan is fantastic in the lead role, delivering an intense and convincing physicality while also bringing a great deal of humanity during the whole thing. There are a lot of close ups allowing her to really demonstrate a range of emotions and feelings and each one is perfectly believable and add to Hanna's humanity, curiosity, and wonder when exposed to the world outside of the cabin she was raised in.

Likewise, the two main adult characters are also rather interesting. Eric Bana gives Erik a rounded persona as Hanna's trainer, father, and protector. He is interesting to watch progress through the story. Cate Blanchett is a great ice queen with moments of uncertainty as she pursues Hanna and Erik. There is more to her than you may think and Blanchett does a fine job of subtly conveying that.

Seriously, this movie exceeded my expectations. It is beautifully shot, has some great action, knows how to keep the pace, and allows us to spend time with the characters. It feels simultaneously relentless and contemplative. It is a movie I will enjoy revisiting.

Highly Recommended.

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