Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: "Hanna"

As previously stated, Hanna is the first 2011 film that I was actually anticipating seeing. Admittedly, I was most aroused by the film's trailer because of its not-so-veiled comparison to Run Lola Run, Tom Twyker's much celebrated 1998 German film starring the incomparable Franka Potente. Hanna, the title character, is blindly devoted to her father and after spending most of her formative years in isolation, she finds herself being chased from Morocco to Germany. The film is directed by Joe Wright, whose previous films, period pieces Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), are worlds apart from Hanna, at least in terms of genre. Joe Wright, however, does have a great stylistic vision. Both Pride & Prejudice and Atonement were nominated for Best Art Direction at the Academy Awards, the latter also receiving a nomination for Best Cinematography. Hanna is a beautifully shot film, encompassing many different cities and locations, and luckily this film is not entirely style over substance. Saoirse Ronan, who rose to fame as a thirteen year old in Atonement and garnered a Best Supporting Actress nomination, stars as Hanna. She has done little to impress me since then, but in Hanna she expertly uses her quiet demeanor and delicate features. Only sixteen, Ronan shows great maturity acting opposite Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, one of the classiest and most versatile actresses working today. Saoirse Ronan commands the screen in Hanna and does her job making the fantastic Cate Blanchett a supporting player. The soundtrack, composed by The Chemical Brothers, is a wonderful companion to the style and pace of the film. Though I must admit, the electronic music adds to the comparisons of Twyker's film. Hanna is a great thriller that slowly reveals its secrets and while the first act of the film is overly stylized and reminiscent of Run Lola Run, it quickly establishes itself as a first-rate thriller and, with no competition, the best film of 2011.

Hanna Heller (Ronan) has grown up living in a shack in a remote and desolate part of Finland. She has only had her father Erik (Bana) to raise her and teach her. He has trained her to be a soldier, often engaging her in hand-to-hand combat. Hanna knows that her mother died when she was an infant and was told that she was shot three times by Marissa Viegler (Blanchett), a CIA agent. Erik has been preparing his daughter to kill Viegler and has taught her numerous languages and made her memorize various back stories, all without the aid of modern technology. Erik's has an old transmitter that, when turned on, will transmit his location to Marissa Viegler. His plan is for Hanna to murder Viegler and then reunite with him in Berlin. Once the switch is flipped, Hanna awaits the agents at their home in Finland while Erik flees. Hanna is taken to an underground compound where she requests Marissa Viegler herself. But Viegler is still in the United States and must convince her superiors that she is capable of seizing him without complication. Hanna is then introduced to a woman posing as Marissa Viegler, and escapes the compound after killing her. Believing that Marissa Viegler is dead, Hanna begins her trek to Berlin. She discovers that she is in Morocco and happens on Sophie (Jessica Barden), an English girl on tour in a caravan with her parents (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) and brother. Viegler arrives while Hanna is still in Morocco and soon pays an associate to track her and kill her while she goes after Erik. The secrets of Hanna's life are slowly revealed and the line between ally and enemy are quickly blurred.

Unfortunately for Hanna, there are a few moments that feel forced. In particular, this is when Hanna's isolation proves difficult for her in the real world. While trying to find a place to stay in Morocco without any money, she becomes startled by the buzzing of the neon lights, the noises from the television, the ringing of the telephone and the boiling kettle which occur all at once. Her reactions seem normal and we empathize with her adjustment in the real world. This is in contrast to the moment when Hanna finds herself alone with a boy in Spain and instead of kissing him, she throws him to the ground. This whole scene seems to want to play for laughs, which is not in sync with the rest of the film. I felt that this where Hanna started to lose some steam, though it did quickly regain its pace. Saoirse Ronan is particularly great in the film and the role demands quite a lot from this talented young actress. She must be confident and anxious all at once. As a character, Hanna leaves the comfort of her minimal existence and is thrust into the real world as an adult, at only sixteen. Joe Wright, as director, allows the camera to chase after Hanna and we see her in control. Cate Blanchett sold me on the film in the trailer, she is such a phenomenal actress. She has a similar role here as she did in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), but in this recent effort she is given a character and a screenplay that works. She is villainous but we can understand the reasons for her actions. It is a tribute to the young Saoirse Ronan that Cate Blanchett's great talents do not overshadow the heroine of our film. Hanna is bursting with both energy and secrets. It is by no means a perfect film, but its faults are permissible because Hanna is an energetic and impassioned film with a great central performance by Saoirse Ronan.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

Since the creation of CineCritical, Siobhan and I had not had a shared cinematic experience. It is ridiculous to believe that we had not been to the theatre since seeing Biutiful together. Knowing her, she will weight in with her thoughts on Hanna and offer her insightful opinion!

1 comment:

  1. And by "knowing her" what Matt actually means is that I'm about to get wordy :)

    I too was impressed by Saoirse Ronan, not only for her complete and utter commitment to the role but for her ability to live in the silence. What I mean by this is that while a thriller by nature, a good deal of the scene involving Hanna herself are quite silent. It is the ability to be silent that is most difficult for an actor. It is the ability to share a multitude of ideas and information with silence that is most difficult for a director but here both Wright and Ronan achieve it beautifully.

    While it's true that most of the accents in this film are a little bit much (I love Cate but her southern accent is a just the tiniest bit TOO pronounced), the film itself was so compelling from start to finish that I was able to overlook them almost entirely.

    Complex and beautiful while managing to remain dangerous and wildly refreshing, I genuinely enjoyed Hanna and would agree with Matt's 3.5 rating. While it echoed Run Lola Run to a certain extent, I think the complexity of character here is something all its own.

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