Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Hanna

Non Spoiler Review:
Hanna is a film by director Joe Wright, starring Saoirse Ronan (from The Lovely Bones) as Hanna, Eric Bana, and the always stellar Cate Blanchet. I can't say that I remember seeing any of Joe Wright's previous movies, but he seems a very capable director if Hanna is any indication. I was initially interested in this film given the screenwriter, Seth Lochhead is from Nanaimo, British Columbia. If the Bourne Identity were turned into a fairy tale starring an adolescent girl, this could be it.

We meet the eponymous Hanna in the opening scene tracking a buck, but quickly realize she's not a normal child, and in fact has been trained by her ex-CIA father (Bana) to be an ├╝ber-assassin. She's been raised in the forest all her life, taught by Bana pretty much everything, until she realizes she's ready to go out into the world. Bana offers her the choice to signal the outside with a transmitter, which will set in motion a chain of events to carry out their revenge against the film's wicked witch villain, CIA operative Marissa (Blanchett).

Hanna really kicks off when she's on her own, fleeing her pursuers and experiencing the world outside her forest for the first time. It's very much like a fairy tale odyssey (complete with enchanted forest, evil witch, mad huntsmen, and a Grimm gingerbread house). 

Hanna is Jason Bourne if he were a teenage girl. The big reveal for Hanna's backstory might be a bit eye-rolling for some, but that aspect is the engine to focus on the character and the action. There are lots of chase scenes and an unusual number of Germans running. The supporting cast of hired muscle are suitably creepy, and Hanna meets some interesting people along the way.

A big plus for Hanna is its indie/non-Hollywood feel. It very much had the sense of a foreign film and the European and North African locales were engaging and not your typical fare. It plays out at a frenetic pace, with fantastic visuals and a lot of shaky cam (or, I should say, sprinting-alongside-the-running-actors-cam). Scattered amid the craziness are more serene, silent moments as Hanna samples her first experiences of her new world. The film score by the Chemical Brothers is amazing, and is as much a part of the action as the characters.

Lola? Is that you?
Ronan really breaks out of her zone here and presents a believable heroine. Cate Blanchett (whom I love) plays out a bit two-dimensional. There's the whole witch/wicked step-mother aspect to her role, but perhaps just a bit more insight into her would have helped flesh out her motivations. Or possibly it was just that Southern accent that grated on me.

Like the Bourne Identity, if you accept the initial conceits presented in the film, you'll have a fun time. I felt I had experienced Hanna more than I watched it—the varying elements worked so well together. Its only failing was in not bringing anything new to the table, but just electrifying a storyline we've seen in various states before. But I walked out energized and satisfied with that.

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