Review: Hanna

Hanna is badass

 
Director: Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist)
Writer: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams
MPAA Rating: PG-13
 


You’ve seen Hanna before. From Angelina Jolie’s Salt to Kill Bill‘s The Bride, from Jason Bourne to Wolverine. In the business they call it genre, and this film is steeped in it (the kind of a film that makes Quentin Tarantino and Stephen King end-of-the-year lists). Without divulging much in the way of spoilers, Hanna is the story of a CIA asset that goes missing only to be found and, as you would expect, all shit breaks loose. Sprinkled about this mayhem is an affecting coming-of-age story wherein the unstoppable Frankenstein monster is a fourteen year old girl who wants to know what music feels like as much as she wants revenge. In lesser hands this delicate balance of genres would upset one or the other fan bases, but with Hanna, director Joe Wright is somehow able to maintain the momentum of both the emotional story and the high-octane action without doing a disservice to either. The result appears effortless, a steady stream of event movie-making on par with anything of the Bourne franchise.

Saoirse Ronan walks the razor’s edge of cool and vulnerable in her performance of Hanna – this curious vision of a doe-eyed, blood-speckled assassin is just one of the joys of the film. Added to this is a stellar supporting cast: Eric Bana as Hanna’s father and sole provider, Cate Blanchett (rocking a Scully do) as the formidable CIA opponent, Joe Wright regular, Tom Hollander, as the whistling psychopath-for-hire, and even a bit part for Olivia Williams as a hippie mom caught in the middle. Hollander’s Isaacs is a stand-out and a fascinating turn for this character actor typically resigned to playing daft weaklings, here, despite his stature, Isaacs is channeling Dennis Hopper from Blue Velvet, running head-on towards whatever damage he can administer.

With Hanna, Wright continues to show-off his talents for creating breathtaking visuals, but here perhaps more so than in his other films the bravado is suited to the story. Added to his arsenal is a surprisingly adept handling of action, at times indulging in the virtuoso of one-take tracking shots over the ease of multiple cuts. Though nowhere as ambitious as the notorious one-take tracking shot in Atonement, the several interspersed in Hanna are better integrated, showing-off for sure, but not to the detriment of the story. Likewise, the hyper-stylized world of Hanna fits the story, and when, in the third act a Grimm Fairytale Amusement Park becomes an opportunity to indulge in visual flare, it is established and justified within the narrative of Hanna. This tightening of intention without letting go of ambition makes Hanna Wright’s most successful experiment of style, hitting that sweet balance of style and substance.

I leave the best for the last. The music. My God, the music. The first part of the film plays up the absence of sound, the absence of music in Hanna’s ascetic life in the woods. But when the outer world crashes into her own, and Chemical Brothers turn their amps to eleven, and Wright turns the cool factor up to eleven, and bad things happen to bad people, and the pulsing of the beats matches the pulsing of your heart, it is fist-pumping brilliance. Wright has had a penchant for creative uses of sound in his movies, from the typewriter score in Atonement to the abstract expression of music in The Soloist, and in Hanna he refines this experiment even further, making soundscapes out of action-sequences. The best comparison for what Wright pulls off with these soundscapes in Hanna is Tom Twyker’s Run Lola Run, as in fact, Hanna spends the majority of the film running like Franka Potente, just to far better music. After the calm before the storm in the first act, the film is wall-to-wall music, and not just Chemical Brothers, but a nice mix of rock, ethnic folk music, classical, sometimes bleeding into the pulsating beats of Chemical Brothers, playing into the natural flow of the film.

With Hanna, Wright delivers the goods. The sins of The Soloist are hereby duly absolved. His latest is a calling card to any of the big action franchises, if he so wished to have them. It is straight-up genre filmmaking as good as it gets, the movie makes a promise of what it is going to do and delivers.

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Kurt Halfyard
Admin

NICE

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

seeing this on Monday. Tres excited!

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

a little bit of Lynch, a little bit of Bourne, a little bit of DePalma, a little bit of Twyker, shake it up and see what you get.

OMG, I can’t wait. I was already hyped up from the trailers (and the talent attached), this review makes me hope my expectations aren’t in vain. Also, I THOUGHT I saw Olivia Williams in the trailer for a split second. Glad to know I was right.

John Allison
Editor

“I hope it inspires you to watch Atonement.” –

Atonement is the most Oscar bait piece of twoddle that I’ve ever seen. I can’t understand how you guys can like it. The beach scene alone just makes me laugh as opposed to evoking the desired emotion that I’m sure Wright was going for.

I am still dying to see this though. The trailer totally hooked me in.

Marina
Guest

I’m with Mike on ATONEMENT. Lots of love for it.

Will not read this review until I’ve seen it but for now, be assured I’m beyond excited. Too bad it’s still a week or so away 🙁

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

My rule in review writing. Use a scene if it extrapolates to the vibe or meaning of the film. Otherwise, plot synopsis beyond the broadest sketch, doesn’t have too much of a place.

That being said, in Nathan Rabin’s “MY YEAR OF FLOPS” he often does a wonderful job walking through most scenes of the film, and using each bon mot as a springboard for how the film fit then (and now) into the pop cultural spectrum. I’m often in awe of how he does that so well.

John Allison
Editor

I’m sorry but this scene is just total pandering…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCJJfOp8_Go

I don’t really care if it is an impressive shot as I just get annoyed at Wright for throwing emotional hook after hook. I wasn’t digging the movie prior to this scene and by the end of the scene I was pretty much done.

Andrew James
Admin

Sure the scene may be used as sort of a gimmick or whatever, but it’s still pretty impressive. But the entire movie in terms of visual prowess is absolutely stunning. The acting is superb, the emotional frustration of the entire story is heart-wrenching. The performances are terrific. The incorporation of sound effects into the score. And on and on and on.

Atonement is still a 5 star effort for me. If you can’t get on board with these characters and feel for their plight within this story as a piece of drama, something is wrong with you.

And again, it is so fucking gorgeous visually!

Marina
Guest

Just a personal rule. No pre-reading reviews for movies I *really* want to see 🙂

Matt Gamble
Guest

Atonement is still a 5 star effort for me. If you can’t get on board with these characters and feel for their plight within this story as a piece of drama, something is wrong with you.

I’d argue that if you are onboard for the characters plight in this film then you are emotionally empty. Atonement is a pandering piece of trash with nothing more to say than could be uttered by a child. Possibly a functionally retarded child. And Sally Struthers is its annoying parent.

Kris
Guest

A great review Mike, I really want to watch it.

Kurt
Guest

This. Movie. Is. EXCELLENT.

Right down to the bare bones of plot, just enough. Almost Mamet-ian.

Also, it is nearly impossible to believe the doofus minister from both the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and In The Loop (and Mr. Collins in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice) is the psychotic GERMAN villain here. Wow.

rot
Guest

I think Tom Hollander is in every Joe Wright film… He is great here.

It is one of those movies that I find myself itching to see again right after.

Now watch Atonement

rot
Guest

Need to listen to Container Park again.

Matt Gamble
Guest

That is some child, playing with narrative that way, extrapolating on the meaning of atonement and guilt in a highly original way.

Dealing with guilt by lying more to cover up the guilt is exactly how a child deals with such things, and isn’t novel or original at all. Her character is one note throughout, and adds as much complexity and nuance over the years as her hairstyle does.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

She isn’t lying, she’s creating an alternate narrative that works out the way real life can’t – she can’t fix what she did in actuality, and she knows that, so she uses art to atone in some small way, to create the story the way it should have been, as inadequate as it is. If this is lying, than all art is lying – fictional, representational art, anyway. I haven’t jumped into the argument because I’m kind of lukewarm about the film myself, but I found the aspect of atonement through art really powerful in the book, which gets it across better than the film, I think.

Matt Gamble
Guest

She’s concocting a fictional narrative that allows her to show the type of character and emotional growth that she doesn’t actually achieve in real life, allowing her to atone for her sins while simultaneously making herself look better in the process.

Oh yeah, as an added bonus she’s about to lose all grip on reality so she won’t actually have to deal with any potential fallout from the revelation at all. Yup, she totally must have felt real guilt to wait up until she was fabulously rich and famous (and older than the Crypt Keeper) and just a hair’s breath away from loosing her marbles to reveal what a cunt she really is. What bourgeois bullshit.

But it has a pretty single take shot. Did you see it? Huh? Did you? OMGITISSOAMAZINGLIKEWOAH!!!

God I hate that movie.

Kurt
Guest

I haven’t seen atonement yet. And P&P was very very pretty but not all that great (as much from trying to squeeze things into a 2h time frame as anything else, bug again, Wright casts the prettiest people (yes, even Hollander) in his P&P to the detriment in my opinion – at least for the supporting players there..)

But, in light of buzzing from HANNA, I’m keen to go back and check out Atonement, if only to see what the Row Three fuss (Rot, Marina, Jandy, Andrew) is about. Maybe by the end of the April if its on Netflix Instant.

Kurt
Guest

There is a one-take fight sequence in HANNA that is less about being showy than acutally showing what the heck is going on in the fight! In North American action pictures (which lately have been edited to microsecond shots) this is a great thing. Eric Bana is very convincing as an action star here, which is kinda awesome.

Saoirse Ronan is the new Sissy Spacek, and this is her CARRIE.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Just to be clear, I need a rewatch on Atonement myself, because I was disappointed with it in comparison with the book (which isn’t really fair, I know, because the kind of story it is perhaps necessitates that whichever you experience first is likely to seem better). My defense was based on the narrative structure, which is the same in book and film, though it works better in the book, I think.

Kurt, I’m even more excited hearing about a long-take fight scene. I’m so sick of ultra-edited fight scenes.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I’d describe the shooting of most of this film as ‘Stately.’ As Mike points out above, Wright has a good grasp of when to use noise and when to use silence, and how to integrate the Chemical Brothers Score so that it is both organic to the film, and organic to the viewing experience (i.e. a slick-soundtrack for violence, as is the case with the genre)

rot
Guest

Jandy, Matt rewatch Atonement. For me it is not a perfect film but it is effective. The question over the atonement in the film is SUPPOSED to be questionable, it would be pretty shitty if the film was saying all that bad stuff was easily resolved. Again a subtlety of the theme the your sledgehammer analysis overlooks, Matt.

As for Hanna, there is more than one singletake action scene… reminded me of Old Boy, and yeah kind of awesome to see people fight in context

rot
Guest

I dont get the everything is too pretty argument for P&P… it is Jane Austen not Emily Bronte… The world is romanticized on purpose..that said it did feel dimensional, there was enough dirt to make feel more historical than Hollywood backlot.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

that said it did feel dimensional, there was enough dirt to make feel more historical than Hollywood backlot.

This is precisely what I liked so much about Wright’s P&P. It was pretty, but it felt lived-in, and for the first time I actually understood the subtle class differences between the Darcys, Bingleys, and Bennetts.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I only make that argument because I have a soft spot for the BBC 1990s (Colin Firth starring, if you will) version of Pride & Prejudice, which is a gold mine of great character actors, particularly the Bennet and Mr. Collins. Now there is no way I would knock Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, and Tom Hollander, great actors all, but I just couldn’t get into the story with these actors playing these parts. My issue and not the films, but there you have it….

Kurt
Guest

My HANNA review is up at TWITCH (http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2011/04/hanna-review.php) and isn’t published here, because it pretty much says the same thing. I really, enjoyed this one. Bravo.

rot
Guest

Admittedly, I have not seen the entire BBC P&P, I probably should, but it would seem to me that that is the more pretty of the two adaptations… sure cinematography is beautiful in Wright’s version but, aside from Kiera Knightly, the actors seem selected conscious of some level of believability… Matthew MacFayden is not actually that attractive a guy strangely to play Mr Darcy, compared to a young Colin Firth? Since P&P he has been playing a lot of unromantic side characters to emphasize the point. Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan have a natural beauty and are believably young – Keira Knightley is the exception, but I still think she is surprisingly good in this.

Were I to rank Wright’s films I would probably put P&P at the top, I think THAT is the perfect movie for what it is aiming to do. Hanna is an incredibly close second.

Here is my controversial statement for this comment:

I think Joe Wright has the capacity to be the next Steven Spielberg, and with Atonement appears to have the residual negative aspects of Spielberg as well. He has incredible talent and ambition with his storytelling, he goes for showy set-pieces, has a talent for entertainment, can be saccharin and earnest. He is populist but more talented than the average filmmaker in that realm. It is early in his career but I get the feeling, especially after Hanna, if he wanted to, he could be THAT guy in Hollywood who makes event pictures.

Kurt
Guest

It’s not the two leads in the P&P, it’s everything else. This is perhaps exaggeration my reaction to Wright’s P&P, I just really, really like the BBC one, it’s definitive in my book. I don’t think Wright’s take adds much to the equation (in fact, it subtracts a lot, a function of TV vs. Movie time allotments) other than really handsome cinematography. My take. I was mainly bored watching the film. I find the 5+ hour BBC entirely engaging.

Kurt
Guest

No idea, but the soundtrack has been available online for some time. That is more important!
http://www.rowthree.com/2011/03/04/hanna-and-her-chemical-brothers/
http://soundtrack-movie.com/hanna/

David Brook
Admin

Sorry to ask such a banal question unrelated to the previous discussion, but I was wondering if the accents in the film are as bad as they seem in the trailer? I’m excited about watching the film, I thought the trailer looked refreshingly violent and exciting, but I couldn’t get over the dodgy bond villain accents. Can anyone put me at ease and tell me this won’t be a problem when I watch it in a couple of weeks?

David Brook
Admin

If it fits the film then that’s ok. It just really jarred for me in the trailer. Plus it doesn’t help that they’re supposed to be Finnish, an accent I am hugely familiar with.

I’m sure it’ll wash over me after a few minutes. Can’t wait to see it still.

rot
Guest

Finnish? I am pretty sure they are German.

David Brook
Admin

OK. I was just going from the synopsis I’ve read that says she is being raised in Finland by her father (Eric Bana). I shouldn’t really be jumping to wild conclusions before actually watching the film 🙂

Norlinda
Guest

Tom Hollander wasn’t in Atonement. But I have no doubt he would have been awesome in it.
Watched all of Joe Wright’s movies and I do love them all, even Atonement and The Soloist. Atonement was somewhat akin to watching a Terrence Malick movie, you either really love it or hate it. I loved The Soloist because I got to see Wright’s unique interpretation of a story that’s been told in so many other movies. And now in Hanna we get to see Wright’s version of an action movie. I felt let down by the writing in this movie, especially the ending. But it really didn’t matter in the end because I was there to see how “Wright” it could be.

rot
Guest

I think I wrote a review here for the Soloist and gave it 3 stars… the only problem with it is the script, it was a bad script to greenlight… given the material Wright does surprisingly well, I agree.

rot
Guest

OK I guess I was wrong, it isn’t something that makes Tarantino’s end of year list

http://www.filmjunk.com/2012/01/16/quentin-tarantinos-top-11-movies-of-2011/

But then again, his end of year list sucks.

Andrew James
Admin
rot
Guest

and I was wrong about King

http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20326356_20551445,00.html#21088837

Andrew James
Admin

I love that King does a top 20 of all pop culture items of the year; not just book or movies, but mixes them all together. I’m going to do that too!

Right now.