7 May 2011

Movie Review: Hanna


2011, 111mins, 12
Director: Joe Wright
Writer (s): Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Cast includes: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams
UK Release Date: 6th May 2011

"Hanna" is a unique motion picture; that much is abundantly clear. A tale of vengeance that riffs heavily on fairytale tropes, “Hanna” is a flawed but admirable departure for the career of Joe Wright. Wright usually seen helming worthy Oscar contenders, shows a surprising degree of directorial flair when placed so firmly outside of his comfort zone, concocting a film that revels in surrealist sensory overload. However the screenplay at hand is decidedly less inspired, slack characterization and a clunky final act denying “Hanna” the chance to be truly great. It’s filled with little moments of genius and a cast of terrific performers, but ultimately “Hanna” just doesn’t click as slickly as one might hope.

Raised in the icy European wilderness by her father Erik (Eric Bana), Hanna( Saoirse Ronan) has been rigorously educated in the ways of survival. When Erik acknowledges that Hanna has completed her combative and intellectual training, he sends her out on a mission, to dispose of Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), the government spook responsible for the death of Hanna’s mother. Things don’t exactly go to plan, with Hanna unwittingly tossed into a world she’s never known; Marissa and her numerous violent employees hunting her across the globe. Hanna quickly bonds with a British family, finding comfort in their equally weird mannerisms, but even they can’t protect her from the steely and unrelenting Marissa.

One of the key problems that troubles “Hanna” is the screenplays seeming uneasiness with Wright’s filmmaking vision, the director having morphed what appears to be a Bourne Jr. story into something much less traditional. Primed with nods to fairytale literature, “Hanna” plays out like a piece of Grimm Brother’s fiction in its own right, boasting an abnormal but na├»ve protagonist pitted against eerie evils and serpentine villains. Wright makes very direct references to mythical lore (the grandma vs. the wolf moment is particularly notable), using his own trippy editorial style and a sublime score from The Chemical Brothers to further boost the picture’s idiosyncrasy. The production design and cinematography are undeniably gorgeous, but “Hanna” appears to be a movie of two different creative mindsets, and they combine somewhat roughly. I deeply appreciate the added imagination that Wright’s bizarre choices advertise, but it’s possible they hurt “Hanna” as much as they help.

The cast are phenomenal, battling unremarkable writing and emerging victorious. Saoirse Ronan brings both an irresistible innocence and frightening ferocity to the title role, the delicate actress injecting the part with a radically impressive helping of physicality. Whilst the storytelling may somewhat meander, Ronan ensures the audience always remain on her side, enchanting us as she flees her aggressors and desperately attempts to comprehend a life in civilization. The young actress has shown tremendous ability in the past (“Atonement” and “The Lovely Bones”) and she acquits herself breathtakingly here, providing the picture with a consistently engaging hero.

Cate Blanchett is fully invested in Wright’s interpretation of the material, portraying Marissa as a twisted evil stepmother. The actress is obviously having great fun with the part, malevolently stomping around with a demented glimmer in her eyes. The same can also be said of Tom Hollander, playing an assassin tasked with bringing Hanna down. The role must have been totally vacant on paper, but Hollander brings some mightily menacing tics and traits to the part, ensuring his contribution remains memorable. Eric Bana is less fortunate, the Australian thespian largely failing to overcome the screenplay’s frustrating limitations. As a cog in the narrative machine he’s perfectly fine, but he doesn’t strike as loud a chord as his peers. Certainly it’s the suspicious bond between the formidable Hanna and equally determined Marissa that fascinates most, rather than the father/daughter relationship of the picture’s opening act.

The action sequences don’t roll around often, but when they do Wright shows fantastic precision and placement with his camera. Often opting for long continuous shots, Wright adds a refreshing intimacy to his set-pieces, wringing out excitement and adrenaline soaked tension with every frame. The over arching plotting would have undoubtedly benefited from a tauter grasp, but the moments of violence and combat are perfectly pitched, anchored by viable stakes, which incidentally add massively to the suspense.

The film’s climax trundles on for longer than it should, although Wright’s choice to make the final showdown a very personal affair further showcases his artistic maturity. “Hanna” refuses to answer all the questions it raises, preferring to end with at least mild traces of ambiguity. This decision does admittedly compliment the project’s dreamlike tone, bolstering its underlying sense of hallucinatory unease even further. Say what you will about “Hanna”, but at least it stands by its own supremely odd convictions.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011


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