Film Review: 'Hanna'

Film Review: ‘Hanna’

Hanna is no ordinary assassin. With piercing blue eyes and an angelic countenance, the teenager looks more suited to be homecoming queen than cold blooded killer. Only that was not her lot in life. Hanna has been isolated from the populace in the frigid confines of Northern Finland, learning survival skills from her well versed father Erik (Eric Bana), who is an ex-CIA operative.

It’s obvious that Erik is trying to prepare Hanna for something; in addition to survival skills, he quizzes her in multiple languages, and educates her on topics of science, current events, and literature. Hanna spends her evenings poring over Grimm’s Fairy Tales by candlelight.  You could say she is a true Renaissance woman.

The opening scene on the frozen tundra shows Hanna shooting a Reindeer with a bow and arrow. When the creature still writhes about, she calmly shoots it, then dresses it right in the field. She goes about these gruesome tasks with robotic precision and complete detachment.

Later, Erik and Hanna decide it is time to move on from their self-imposed exile; Hanna is ready to go out into the real world. Erik has been honing Hanna’s skills in anticipation of being pursued by Marissa (Cate Blanchett), another CIA agent dead set on getting rid of Hanna. Erik and Hanna go their separate ways, but make plans to meet at a safe-house in Germany.

Hanna tags along with a family she meets in Morocco, getting a taste of what it would be like to lead a normal life. The teenage daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) is the antithesis of Hanna. She is vacuous, self-absorbed, and spoiled. She has a cool mom (played by Olivia Williams) and a cool life. Hanna’s interactions with the family are tinged with sadness, she knows that she will never belong in this world. Still, it is nice to let her dream for a day before she goes on the run yet again.

After dodging an odd assassin with a proclivity for pastel tennis outfits (a platinum haired Tom Hollander) and several close calls, Hanna eventually makes it to Germany.  The final part of the movie takes place in an abandoned German amusement park, specifically the house from Hansel and Gretel.  It is creepy and sets up a wonderful atmosphere.  This fairytale come to life is grim, indeed.  There is a requisite showdown with her tormentor Marissa, and Hanna finds out a little more about her background, which is wrought with government conspiracies and cover-ups.

Director Joe Wright (previously known for Atonement and Pride and Prejudice) does a wonderful job going outside of his usual genres, and consequently we get one of the best thrillers you are likely to see this year. A pulsating soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers is reminiscent of Run Lola Run.  I can say that this movie is not for everyone.  There is very little dialogue, this is a film that is to be appreciated for its visuals, which is one of the reasons I liked it so much.

The colors, sights and sounds of Morocco are invigorating and lively. The Germany scenes are gray and dismal, and that nicely complements what is going on in the film at that point.

I was more than impressed with Saoirse in the role of Hanna. Although she was nominated for an Academy award for Atonement, I was underwhelmed by her in  The Lovely Bones.

Seeing her so skillfully convey innocence, ruthlessness and cunning all at once is a treat. I’m beginning to think she would have made the perfect Katniss for The Hunger Games (the role went to Jennifer Lawrence). I didn’t think that a month ago.

Sadly, Cate Blanchett is the weak link here. She embodies her character well, and her cold disregard for her prey is scary. However, Blanchett has one of the worst accents I have ever heard in a movie, and it changes from scene to scene. At times she sounds like her character Irina Spalko from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Other times she has a grating southern drawl.

Sometimes you can’t identify it at all.  I just found it horribly distracting. I also think it took away a bit of her character’s credibility. It is hard to find her menacing when she sounds like a hillbilly. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too frequently.

Bana is solid as Hanna’s protector and father. He’s sacrificed most of his life to prepare her for what awaits.

The action sequences are a breath of fresh air. The hand-to-hand combat is just that-there are no annoying and cliche slow motion shots, and none of the acrobatics that have been incorporated into nearly every action film of late.  Its just good old fashioned fist to fist fighting.  It’s ironic that the scenes stood out as such an anomaly.

Hanna is moody, melancholy, and mesmerizing. It’s a fine film with a distinctly European feel.  Wright has succeeded in jumping genres.

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