Monday, April 11, 2011


Hanna - Directed by Joe Wright, written by Seth Lochhead and David Farr, starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, and Tom Hollander - Rated PG-13

"Kids grow up." I loved the action, the score, the themes, and the glorious long takes of this film.

Quick, you need to get a director for an action movie set to a techno-score by The Chemical Brothers. Who do you pick? How about the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement? At first glance, Joe Wright seems like a terrible director for a film like Hanna, but just one scene from Atonement makes it apparent that Wright is perfect for a film like this. The scene in question is the long take on a boardwalk that is one of the more impressive shots from recent film memory. That kind of style is what the action genre needs and, thankfully, Wright employs it in Hanna.

More on the long takes later, let’s hit the basics first. Hanna is a flat out cool film about 16-year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement, The Lovely Bones), a girl who has been raised in complete seclusion her entire life by her ex-CIA agent father Erik (Eric Bana). They spend their days hunting and training for some unspoken future mission. The film begins when Hanna decides she is ready for the mission and the outside world. There’s more to it than that, but this film is part mystery so the less you know the better off you are.

The constant training in extreme conditions means that both Hanna and Erik are very lethal. So Hanna features more than a few action scenes. The action genre of late has been all about rapid-fire editing that leaves the viewer more disoriented than wowed. And sure, Hanna has some moments like that, but, more importantly, there are a few of those glorious long takes. The longer takes are impressive from a filmmaking perspective, of course, but they work for two more reasons as well. First, they are very seamless and don’t feel like tricks. They are not show-off scenes, either. Secondly, if a fight takes place in one continuous take, then you can’t do that quick-cut hyper-editing that turns into a blur of flailing limbs coupled with punch sound effects. Instead, when Eric Bana throws a punch, you can tell who he hits.

Music is capable of elevating a film and the techno-score from The Chemical Brothers adds quite a bit to Hanna. The action and the style of the film alone would probably work, but the score really brings it all together. It just seems right to hear cool techno beats during a long take in which Eric Bana takes on multiple CIA agents.

The fairy tale motif is the final key to the surprisingly weird Hanna. Hanna reads from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” and a decent chunk of the film takes place in a Grimm-inspired theme park. This isn’t some idle connection. Hanna is very much like one of the children from the tales (she simply claims that she is from “the forest” at times); the main difference being that she is a bit more capable of defending herself. Then there’s Cate Blanchett’s character. Not to ruin anything, but the close ups of her teeth are not pointless. The reference to a certain Grimm villain is all but confirmed at the theme park. The fairy tale elements really elevate the film and make it the type of film that will benefit from repeat viewings. They also make the film resonate a bit more on an emotional level.

The emotional appeal is helped along quite a bit by the performances of all involved. Saoirse Ronan has quickly become one of the finest young actors in Hollywood and this performance confirms it. She is believable as both a wide-eyed fish out of water and as a trained killing machine. Bana is solid as her father, providing the emotional core of the film. Strangely enough, the emotionless shells of characters also help out because they are such foils to Hanna and Erik. Blanchett is great as usual as the film’s villain. And Tom Hollander gives an unnerving performance as an odd, sadistic hit man.

Hanna is not without its flaws, however. Hanna’s fish out of water moments provide some much needed laughs in the film, but there are one or two too many scenes in which she is awed by the new world around her. The film felt about ten minutes too long because of those scenes. Some people may be put off by the general style of the film as well as at times it can be overbearing. There are very loud moments with some hyper-editing and camera movement. Although, some (e.g., me) would say the overbearing moments make the film more of an experience at times rather than just entertainment.

Hanna is too weird to be for everyone and just weird enough to be kind of great. This isn’t a traditional action movie due to its score, fairy tale theme, and eccentric characters, but the action itself is very traditional because you can tell what’s happening most of the time. Action fans should give this film a chance. (And don’t worry about that PG-13 rating, violence junkies, I would have bet that this film was Rated R if I hadn’t checked the rating before seeing it.) If you’ve seen a preview and are on the fence with this one, go ahead and jump over because Hanna might just surprise you.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

I am officially paying attention to Joe Wright now. Not that his earlier films are really bad or anything (hell, I haven't even seen The Soloist, and don't plan to), their subject matter just wasn't for me. But I imagine I'll watch his next movie no matter what.

Blanchett is definitely supposed to be the Big, Bad Wolf. The close up of the teeth ("My what big teeth you have.") She kills Hanna's grandmother. And she walks out of a giant wolf's head at the theme park near the end.

“Kids grow up.” I obviously loved this line, mainly for Bana's delivery. I hated that he died in the film, but it was necessary for Hanna to truly move on. By the way, Bana gets an awesome, slow motion fight sequence before his death. The slow motion was there as if to say, "We are making sure you can follow this action scene."

How weird was Hollander's character? Not saying that because his character is gay, it was just his overall appearance, the whistling, that whacked out club he was in, and his dead stare. His character really stuck out in an already weird film. Good on you, Hollander!

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