HANNA Review

by     Posted 3 years, 12 days ago

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Director Joe Wright has finally proved he’s a force to be reckoned with.  Atonement was undercut by a poor script and his direction on The Soloist overpowered the story and the performances, but with his latest film Hanna, he finally strikes an impressive balance and transforms a standard revenge flick into an effective and surreal dark fairy tale that punches the landscape almost as hard as its protagonist punches her foes.  Hanna is a film that defiantly and confidently plays by its own rules and the result is an action flick that is as thoughtful as it is exhilarating.

16-year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been brought up in the forest by her former black-ops father Erik (Eric Bana) and trained to accomplish one purpose: assassinate Erik’s former handler and his wife’s killer, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett).  Hanna can speak a variety of language and kill you eight times with her bare hands before you hit the ground in a crumpled heap, but she’s never heard music or even met another human being other than her father.  It’s with this limited but distinct set of skills that Hanna is sent out into the world to kill Marissa.  However, Hanna comes to discover that her upbringing isn’t the only thing about her that’s abnormal.

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On the page, Hanna could have been a fairly forgettable action-revenge flick, but Wright imbues the entire film with a dreamlike sensibility that adds weight to the proceedings.  Everything in the picture is slightly askew and provides immediacy to Hanna’s offbeat coming-of-age tale.  There’s no reason why Ronan and Bana should talk in German accents or why Blanchett should put on such an overbearing Southern drawl, but these slight affectations add up to a film that refuses to exist solely in the realm of reality or fairy tale.  Wright understands that if he’s going to have Hanna running through an endless series of tunnels in an underground prison that apparently only houses her, then “gritty” realism simply isn’t worthy of the story he’s trying to tell.

However, Wright never forgets that his picture should also entertain and he devises some truly remarkable fight scenes.  Wright lets the physicality of the fisticuffs be perfunctory and efficient (as a father-daughter assassins would be), but lets the cinematography, editing, and the score deliver the intensity of the battles.  I rarely advocate for more violence in movies, but Hanna could have used a boost from some added brutality, which would better highlight the juxtaposition of Hanna’s off-kilter innocence and the ruthlessness of her actions.  But even confined by a PG-13 rating, Wright manages to convey the essential dichotomy of her move from innocence to experience and still ask the important question of what qualifies as “innocence”.

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While the camerawork is incredible (especially a scene involving Erik taking down a group of Marissa’s henchmen), special attention is due to the music provided by the Chemical Brothers.  Every year, there are five or six scores that you rush out to buy after seeing the movie and this is one of them.  The score dances between the pulse-pounding action to almost mocking Hanna’s unconventional childhood with a playful and melodic theme.

Also worthy of credit is Ronan.  Bana and Blanchett provide strong support, but the movie truly belongs to the young actress and she does a tremendous job of balancing her character’s murderous ways with a heartfelt wonder and naivety about the larger world.  She completely understands Hanna’s strengths and vulnerabilities and the sympathy she engenders prevents the audience from writing off the character as simply “good”, “evil”, “hero”, or “anti-hero”.

Hanna reminds me of Wayne Kramer’s 2006 action-thriller Running Scared, and I mean that as high praise.  Both films successfully take a fairy-tale like narrative and transplant it into a hard-boiled, unrelenting action flick.  While Hanna doesn’t deliver the same level of brutality and violence as the R-rated Running Scared, Wright demonstrates that he’s can direct crowd-pleasing action flicks with the same level of thoughtfulness and skill that he’s brought to higher-brow fare.

Rating: A-

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  • Ryan Ambrose

    Great review, I wasn’t expecting much of this flick or even planning to see it before I read this.

    I really enjoyed Atonement – the uncut beach scene still gives me chills – but didn’t think The Soloist was as good as it could have been.

    Initially I thought Hanna was just going to be another generic Bourne-esque film à la Salt with hints of Hit-Girl, glad I was wrong.

    • CARTOUCHE

      Funny I read a statement by a critic who used your same exact comparisons.

      HMMMMM

  • alex_manpsy

    I actually might see this even if he’s immature. (criticized Sucker Punch posters) Armond White says this is too trashy for him, but I think it’s just on his level.

    Atonement was too highbrow for him. He lacks the depth to tackle such themes. Ironically Ronan a teen seems to bring the best out of this director, he should probably stick with her, until he matures a bit more.

  • JR209

    I don’t know I just thought the film was okay. It ends so abruptly and never see a glimpse of Hannas new life. Catt Blanchett stole the movie, she was a villian you really hated. But her storyline felt a bit vague. Why did she want Hanna? What was that real significance of her getting her? The action was good I thought the choreography and cinematography was fantastic.

    I’ll probably get bashed for this but I’m sick of Hollywood putting in moments of homosexuality in movies. What was the importance of saying that that one dancer is a transgender, and why does Hanna need to kiss that one girl? I just thought there were things and scenes in the movie that had no weight to them.

  • mendoza Smith

    A another best actor of this movie who is a Eric Bana. After reading review of this movie, i am sure it would be superhit because the story of movie was amazing ..Awesome.
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