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Friday, 27 January 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Hanna

Directed by: Joe Wright

Produced by: Leslie Holleran
Marty Adelstein
Scott Nemes

Screenplay by: David Farr
Seth Lochhead

Story by: Seth Lochhead

Starring: Saoirse Ronan
Eric Bana
Tom Hollander
Olivia Williams
Jason Flemyng
Cate Blanchett

Music by: The Chemical Brothers

Cinematography by: Alwin H. Kuchler

Editing by: Paul Tothill

Studio(s): Marty Adelstein Productions
Studio Babelsberg

Distributed by: Focus Features

Release date(s): April 8, 2011 (United States)
May 6, 2011 (United Kingdom)
May 26, 2011 (Germany)

Running time: 111 minutes

Country(s): Germany
United Kingdom
United States

Language(s): English

Production budget: $30 million

Box office revenue: $63, 782, 078

Well, the reason I have not been on schedule, only posting this one review and having only watched one movie, is partly down to my own laziness, but mostly because the one movie I watched was The Artist. I will be dealing with that in a review of its own, but needless to say, my once rather predictable year-end awards have been shook up: the game has changed significantly on the last straight heading into Oscar season, so, for all updates before the season finale, keep your eyes posted!

I promised a number of surprises that weren't on my schedule, and this is one of them. Hanna is the new film by Joe Wright, director of Pride And Prejudice, Atonement and 2009's rather disappointing The Soloist. In a break from the dramas we have come to know him for, Hanna is an action-thriller, starring Atonement's Saoirse Ronan in the title role. Hanna is a teenager living with her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) in the wilderness of Finland. Never having been in contact with the outside world, Heller has given her specialist training to become an assassin "when the time comes." When Hanna decides she is ready, she proceeds forth with her mission to kill a certain target. With this going on, CIA officer Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) is alerted to the presence of Heller, a former agent who betrayed the agency and is holding a secret that Wiegler cannot let go public. I know this isn't the most accurate plot explanation ever, but I want to get as much across as possible without revealing plot spoilers.

To start with the good about Hanna, I must praise director Joe Wright. Working outside of a genre that he is clearly comfortable with, he does a good job of controlling this film, which could have been a real mess, with finesse. Furthermore, given the ridiculousness of the concept and it's blackly humorous, exploitation film roots, I'm glad that Wright took the film seriously, treating the project respect and giving it a depth beyond surface level. Also, the original score by The Chemical Brothers is very good, giving the film a unique, electronic soundscape with heavy beats. Alwin H. Kuchler's cinematography contains numerous long-takes that obviously required a lot of set-ups, so the more power to him for being able to make the crew's hard work pay off by projecting with gusto the action that is occurring onscreen. Furthermore, from a production design standpoint, the cinematography is important, as both contribute to giving Hanna (the film) a unique look which makes it stand out from the pack. With regards to the acting, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett are both good in their roles, but it is obviously Saoirse Ronan who shines here. In a difficult, physically and emotionally demanding role which a sort-of grown-up Mathilda from Leon, Ronan takes the weight of the film on her shoulders and runs with it. The execution of her part would have made or broke, and I think that we get the former, with her subtle role containing both an animal, instinctive intensity, while still clearly portraying a closeted teenager who is attempting to get in touch with her emotions. I'm glad that Ronan was wise enough to know not to overplay it. Finally, it's not often that we get film's destined for cult status, particularly as so many (just ask Quentin Tarantino) try so hard to make their own cult films. However, Hanna is one of these rarities, and is a genuinely interesting film.

As such, it pains me to point out the film's flaws. However, I do not think that Hanna is a great film, and has a number of issues that need pointing out. For starters, while I like certain elements of David Farr and Seth Lochhead's script, such as it's consistent, darkly humorous tone, I feel that when it comes to penetrating the surface of the story, it tries to dip its hands in too many pots. Is this a Brothers Grimm fairytale, an exploitation movie, or the subtle emergence of female sexuality a la Spirit Of The Beehive, etc etc? In the attempt to focus on so many different things, none of them succeed in coming across as successfully as one, or even two of them might have if they decided to axe some of the more flabby thematic content. Also, I must say that for a film that does stretch on a good fifteen to twenty minutes too long, it doesn't so much conclude as stop. The ending of the film is far too rushed for us as an audience to register what has been going on. This in unfortunate, especially given the qualities that the film possesses.

Still, for all these faults, which if I'm frank, stopped me from connecting to the film on a deeper emotional level, I rather enjoyed Hanna. It has three good performances, particularly from Saoirse Ronan. Also, Joe Wright daringly applies his trademarks to a very different genre from which he is familiar, resulting in some well-photographed and rehearsed long-takes. Sonically, The Chemical Brothers score adds immensely to the film's atmosphere. Finally, even in the faulted, flawed form, Hanna is still, at it's heart, a very good exploitation thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously, has a jet-black streak of humour running all the way through it and is one of the few genuinely unique pictures out there destined for cult film status.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good (I'm glad you asked!)

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