Saturday, May 7, 2011

HANNA Review

Joe Wright, director of such well-received films as ATONEMENT and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, makes his first foray into the world of action entertainment with HANNA and, for the most part, he's successful.

Wright's previous films are not lacking in intensity, but that does not necessarily translate to creating tense action. HANNA came with the question mark of whether this is something he could do. The end-product is not your typical high-octane affair, it's better, a lot better actually. Hanna is unique and its that quality the keeps it from falling flat.

The story centers around Erik Heller (Bana) and his daughter, the titular Hanna (Ronan). Together, they live secluded in the Arctic Circle, where Erik trains Hanna to be all that she can be, which is apparently a highly-intelligent master of violence. The opening of the film, a hunting scene, introduces us to the characters, their situation and their unique relationship quite effectively. When Hanna is ready, she need only press a button and the person she's been trained to kill, Marissa Viegler (Blanchett), will come for her.

The story is pretty good. For a film like this, which apart from heavy action also involves a slowly unraveling mystery, exposition is a temptress, but HANNA never gives in. Yes, there is some, but Wright leaves it up to the audience to figure some things out for themselves. There are lulls in the pace of the film, such as when Hanna tags along with a traveling British family, but they serve a purpose in heightening the peculiarity of the main character by placing her amongst some normal people (who in this film are few). Towards the end, things get messy as one might expect and I don't know that the conclusion, apart from a great final line, is entirely satisfying.

HANNA reminds me a bit of SOURCE CODE in that I think it could use a sequel more than most films that will inevitably spawn them, but will probably never have one. It's a successful stand-alone film, but definitely has elements to explore and room to grow.

There are some truly excellent performances in the film. Bana and Blanchett are solid and Tom Hollander is great as an evil, German assassin, but rising-star Ronan really shines. She, like Wright, has already received a fair amount of acclaim in her short career, but has never been in a role as demanding as this one. Depending on the crop of leading actress performances this year, Ronan could conceivably wind up with an Oscar nomination.

Some of HANNA's best qualities, however, lie outside the script and the actors. When you boil it down, HANNA is much like a BOURNE film, but succeeds in overcoming the blandness of those movies by utilizing a unique and visually appealing style. The frenetics of the BOURNE films is instead replaced by something that flows smoothly and artistically.

Perhaps the film's greatest achievement though is its outstanding soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers. It too is unique, but so fitting for an action film that it's strange that I haven't heard something like it before. The throbbing and oft-times catchy score compliments Wright's brand of violence incredibly well. Back and forth action is absent from the film's many altercations. Blunt, swift violence is the order of the day (one great shot of Bana throwing a knife in slow-mo from behind comes to mind), and the Chemical Brothers have supplied some tunes that add a great aura of badassery.

Grade: B+

No comments: