Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Seth Lockhead, David Farr
Starring:, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
It’s only three months into the year, but Hanna is current favorite. Hooking me from the first frame, it’s a hyper coming-of-age action film that’s simultaneously unbelievable and identifiable.
Hanna is the latest film Joe Wright, who’s previous cinematic ventures leave you wondering how he came to be in the director’s chair. Pride and Prejudice and Atonement (also with Ronan) are period dramas, and The Soloist is a modern-day drama. Wright handles the material well, and ends up with a fun, smart film.
Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) is a 16-year old girl who has lived all of her life secluded in a small cabin with her father (Eric Bana), who has trained her to to survive: “Adapt or die” is a repeated warning. At the beginning of the film, Hanna is faced with a decision which will impact the rest of her life. A decision that will bring her in contact with a woman named Marissa (Cate Blanchett), question her very existence, and the struggle to survive in the world at large.
The film is a well-constructed jumble of action and drama with an art-house flourish. The pace, rhythm, and editing style feed off of each other’s energy, and appropriately adapts from scene to scene. Wright is clearly a fan of long one-take shots (See Atonement), and this shows up in a killer scene with Eric Bana that brutally plays out on the screen. However, the scene where Hanna encounters a plethora of sounds she’s never heard before near the beginning of the film felt overtly bombastic and should have been toned down. The recurring theme of Hanna experiencing new sensations is, aside from the one scene, handled well with profound impact.
In an interview with KBPS, Joe Wright says,
It’s very much a fairy tale. I wanted a kind of atmosphere to the film that was difficult to pin down. It doesn’t quite happen int he real workd but it’s not an all out fantasy.
The fairy tale aspect works really well for the film. It’s impressive how fairy tales influence the characters, story, and setting, but don’t dictate everything. It’s a subtle influence that increases with the film.
The talent is great in this film, especially Cate Blanchett and Tom Hollander as the villains. They brought some great nuances that made their characters stand out and define who they were. Cate’s original encounter with Hanna (seen in the trailer) plays much creepier in the actual film with her reactions to what’s going on. Hollander’s recurring whistle and jaunt add to his eerie persona.
Also impressive was the lead performance by Saorise Ronan, who revealed a lot about her character from her rapt curiosity. Hanna reminded me of Peter Seller’s character Chance in Hal Ashby’s film Being There, where he plays a character who has never left the confines of the residence where his father is the butler. Where Hanna has learned everything she knows from books, Chance learns from his television set. (Granted, Chance isn’t a trained assassin. Parallels have to end somewhere) :)
If you’re looking for a smart popcorn film, Hanna is the one for you.