Hanna – Review


Visceral thriller about a teenage killer

When young actresses are discussed, a name that keeps coming up is Saoirse Ronan. After an Oscar nomination for Atonement, she’s had mixed results in projects since. Always good, she’s been in films with a large difference in quality. Mainly a dramatic actress, Ronan shows off some action chops in a second project with Joe Wright in Hanna.

Hanna (Ronan) had a peculiar childhood. Raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) alone in a cabin near the Arctic Circle, she’s been trained to be a killing machine with one goal in mind: kill Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), CIA agent extraordinaire. When her plan results in a decoy being killed, Hanna and Erik wind up on the run from Marissa and her associates. Along the way Hanna discovers the modern world and everything she missed out on in a regular childhood.

It’s in this discovery where we find the film’s beauty, through the eyes of Ronan. In a less capable actress she’d be an automaton, killing because it’s all she knows how to do. But Hanna is a scarred and scared child, getting humanized through an actress with a quiet power like the Oscar nominee. The way she reacts to things like electricity and running water, as well as television, is tremendously fascinating. She may be educated in the ways of death, and has a textbook knowledge of the working world, but having never been in it gives her a sort of innocence and intrigue. Ronan takes what could be a textbook genre character and give her meaning, as well as a sense of purpose. It’s a rather thin character that gets depth because of her. But character depth isn’t what the film is striving for.

This is a visceral film that drops us into this world and pushes the pace every moment thereafter.

Joe Wright takes what normally would be just another paint by numbers action thriller and gives it a visceral feel several ways. The first is by inserting a pulsating soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers. Mainly techno, they score the film similarly to an orchestra but with a techno beat as opposed to the traditional orchestral scoring. The similar beats an orchestra would use to give the film intensity are generated via electronic music and bring out an intense tone to the film. Everything Wright is doing from a story point is complimented by the film’s score.

It’s also an action film that keeps the action reality based for the most part. It’s tough and gritty, combining practical combat methods as opposed to the Hollywood style of one-punch knockouts. The action scenes are quick and tightly set up, as Wright is keeping them within his characters. There are no massive explosions or “one man army” style attacks on masses of people. It’s almost hard to watch at points because it’s intense and gritty, as opposed to glossy, and it doesn’t hurt that Wright’s visual style maintains this aesthetic.

Wright also combines some savvy editing and some stylized camerawork to keep that atmosphere intense. This is a film that would fail without the right amount of intensity and atmosphere; without decent camerawork it would kill everything he’s trying to accomplish. Wright knows just the right amount of time to go from using a steady-cam to the hand-held variety, mixing it up just enough to turn up the intensity as needed.

And that’s the film’s calling card. This is a generic action thriller, with just enough violence to keep it interesting and enough creativity to keep it from being monotonous, but it doesn’t do anything extraordinary. This is a film that relies a lot on the mythology of fairy tales, and their structure, instead of an in-depth story or characters and succeeds because of it. It goes for the big picture instead of small details, concise enough to keep it from being bogged down in details. By the time the slight Deus Ex Machina comes it feels natural, as opposed to merely being a screenwriter’s way out.

There aren’t many films in the first six months that are truly good in any given year. Hanna is a brilliant one that’ll easily be amongst the best of 2011.

Director: Joe Wright
Notable Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Aldo Maland
Seth Lochhead and David Farr

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