9 May 2011

HANNA- Review

Hanna may be seen as an unusual outing for director Joe Wright, who has in recent years given us Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and The Soloist. But nevertheless it's an action-packed antithesis to several recent rubbish films that purportedly had themes of female empowerment and independence, like Sucker Punch and Red Riding Hood.

It’s a modern fairytale that sees a young girl rescued from a wicked witch by her kind father. The modern part is that they hide in the North Pole. And the witch is ruthless CIA Agent Marissa Viegler. And the kind father, Erik, has been training Hanna’s body and mind to be the ultimate killing machine, to wreak revenge upon "the witch". When she's unleashed upon the world, and Marissa and her cronies begin to hunt her, she begins to adapt to life outside of her spartan existence to discover culture and companionship.

First and foremost, Hanna is a character-driven drama, which suits Wright's palette a little better than, say, The Expendables would have. But it's also a character-driven drama that happens to have an awful lot of kick-ass action sequences. In a way that is entirely unexpected, Wright announces himself as an action director to be reckoned with, fully capable of developing strong and empathic characters and shooting fight scenes that aren't shot two inches away with a shakycam, a la Bourne.

As we understand the story, Hanna views the world, and her revenge mission, through the prism of the stories of the Brothers Grimm, one of the few indulgences that her father seems to have allowed her as he constantly sneak-attacks the girl to prepare her for the future. The fairytale elements of the story are not always subtle, but they can always be appreciated. Unlike the grand histrionics of Red Riding Hood, it actually does bring an implicit coolness to the modern fairytale approach, with a script that’s strong regardless of how blatant the Grimm references may be.

Hanna also supersedes Sucker Punch by empowering a character who just happens to be female, without sexualising or objectifying her to remind us that she's only a silly woman or anything like that. Saoirse Ronan is an actress I really enjoy watching, and she’s on stunning form here. By turns, she's Hit Girl from Kick-Ass and Daryl Hannah in Splash adjusting to the complexities of the world around her without even having to don burlesque outfits or retreat into some imaginary bordello. Even Hanna’s partial sexual awakening as she encounters her first true friend is remarkably tasteful and heartwarming.

Eric Bana shows off his seldom aired action chops and Cate Blanchett makes for a despicable witch. As Ronan, Bana and Blanchett orbit around one another on their respective missions, the film’s 111 minutes flies by. Its pace is abetted even further by the work of Tom Hollander, who is equally camp and sinister as the tracksuited German henchman, Isaacs. His whistling of his character's leit-motif is both creepy and jaunty at the same time, and he injects some fun into the drama.

There’s also a soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers that stands out as one of the best scores since Daft Punk’s efforts on Tron: Legacy. Like that score, this one has been much discussed in the initial hype around Hanna, to the point where even I had bought the album and listened to it all the way through before seeing the film. Perhaps that's why I noticed how Wright wisely holds back that score until Hanna blazes into civilisation. In early scenes, she professes an interest in music that is meticulously paid off throughout the rest of the film as she discovers the rest of the world that has been kept from her.

Hanna isn’t without minor flaws, but it’s astonishingly well-executed, considering the recent raft of lesser films with similar themes. Hanna's simple interest in music and culture might go over the heads of some popcorn-munchers, but it's a deeply arresting and intelligent action drama in which the character is placed paramount, above the fisticuffs or the spectacle. It's surprising enough that the film got out with a 12A, considering some of the strong violence on show, but it's more surprising as a reinvention of Joe Wright the period drama director, into Joe Wright the action director.

Hanna is now playing in cinemas nationwide.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Rob said...

nice review :D