Theatrical Review: HANNA

Rudie Obias

by: Rudie Obias
April 6th, 2011


Rating: 4/5

Writers: David Farr, Seth Lochhead
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jessica Barden
Studio: Focus Features

It seems like this year’s slate of spring releases are following a good trend. It’s a formula Hollywood hasn’t invested in or produced in a long time. From BATTLE: LOS ANGELES to SOURCE CODE, even movies like YOUR HIGHNESS and SUCKER PUNCH are part of this trend. The movies being released (for the most part) this spring are based on original screenplays. Sure, we have sequels coming up like SCREAM 4 and FAST FIVE (the fifth installment in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, the fifth!). This spring is seen as some sort of weigh station for the summer of sequels, reboots, and comic books. It’s very refreshing to go to a theater this season and see a long string of original movies. Movies like Joe Wright’s latest, HANNA, fit this mold of originality, even though it feels somewhat familiar.

The plot of HANNA is simple. A girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and her father Erik (Eric Bana) hide out, live, and train in the wilderness of Finland. They are hiding out from the C.I.A., as Erik is a rogue agent who raises his daughter to become a well-skilled killer who can always think on her feet. They are on the run from a ruthless C.I.A. operative, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). The movie starts off with slowly paced and methodical training sequences. Not to use the words “slowly paced” as a pejorative, but quite the opposite. Hanna stalks, hunts, and kills her prey; in the beginning of the film, it's a moose, a fitting metaphor for the entire movie and moreover, the tagline of the film, “adapt or die”.

The tone and pacing of this film is very interesting, it plays and moves more like a European art house film. It's a film more concerned with form and motivation, which makes it thoughtful. I am reminded of Anton Corbijn’s THE AMERICAN, another film that was sold as a high-octane thrill ride, but to the audience’s surprise, the film was quieter and subtler than that. HANNA follows suit. There is a definite European feel to this film, and not for its locations and cast, but in tone. This is not to say that the action isn’t thrilling or heart-stopping - it is, and at times, the film feels like RUN HANNA RUN. The action in this film is very well-done, especially considering it comes from a director not known for elaborate action sequences or well-choreographed fighting scenes. And man, does this movie get brutal. Joe Wright does not shy away from the harshness and bone-crushing nature of violence, all captured through his wonderful camerawork.

There is much to be said about the score and sound design of HANNA. The Chemical Brothers follow tjhe recent trend of well-established pop artists doing a film’s score. You can argue that within the context of the film, the Chemical Brothers' score for HANNA trumps Daft Punk’s score from TRON: LEGACY. It is extremely clever to incorporate a certain theme from the score to the unfolding of HANNA’s plot. Even just thinking about that theme gives me chills remembering the brutality and weirdness of Hanna’s would-be captures. What makes most action films successful are the sound design, and the sound design and editing in HANNA is remarkable. This creates a deeper level of action and gives the film a certain texture and note, almost lush and rich. This movie is loud!

But at the end of the day, HANNA is the story of, well, Hanna - a young girl that is not limited to her enclosed surroundings, a young girl who discovers herself through the people she meets, the places she’s been and the experiences she has. It’s just that this young girl happens to be an extremely well-trained killer. Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna with a curiosity, vulnerability, and sheer sense of rage and violence. With such a wide range of mystery, skill, and pathos, it’s hard to believe Saoirse Ronan is only sixteen years old. Ronan is the center of attention and she holds it well.

HANNA is a wonderful film and is one of the first legitimately good movies of 2011. It has an engaging story that boils down to the essence of growing up and coming of age. HANNA is smarter than most action films, but reluctantly, it’s not as smart as most art house films. The film seems to be a movie of opposites. From the near silence of the first 20 minutes of the movie to how sound just crashes into the movie as if Hanna herself is screaming, “I’m here!” to HANNA being Joe Wright’s follow up to THE SOLOIST, ATONEMENT, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, films that are quiet, proper, and sagacious to a film that is loud, cutthroat, and ferocious.

However, HANNA serves its filmmakers and cast well. Hopefully, the trend of original stories stays a trend in Hollywood. HANNA proves that an exciting, thrilling, yet thoughtful action film can be made for a relatively small budget. This is something I think we can all enjoy. In short, HANNA is worth watching!

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  • [A]

    Nice! This review just made me want to see it more.. I have to wait a couple of months though *bummer*

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