Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hanna (2011) – Review

Hanna is a very good action thriller made excellent by a great coming-of-age story at its core. Director Joe Wright uses his kinetic style of filmmaking to create a full visceral experience visually for the audience, while also incorporating a wonderful booming score from The Chemical Brothers to accentuate both what is happening on screen and how the viewer interacts with it. He uses long takes, multiple contrasting and interesting locations and beautiful photography to pull the viewer in and set the film apart from just any old action thriller. The fights are choreographed and shot to be seen and felt, rather than impact and quick cuts, jumping around giving a sense of a fight. Here, the audience is treated to a much more personal experience, letting the action play out as if the viewer is there – the sequences telling a story. This is forwarded even more by how much affection the film has for its main character, Hanna. She is shot with such wonder: feeling music, friendship, color, and many other things for the first time. Her discovery of a world outside her relationship with her father, which is built mainly on his preparing her for what lies ahead – constant training and survival skills (but we also feel that they do love each other, which makes their relationship, and the film, all the more powerful) – play like a coming-of-age story. It is completely relatable to the audience, as she uncovers new sights, sounds and feelings – whereas if the story had only focused on her as an assassin hunting down her target, she would not resonate with the viewer to the same extent as a character, and the film would not be as vital. The viewer cares about Hanna, and that is extremely important or the film would just be another shallow entertaining action piece. Aesthetically and narratively, Wright creates the film to play as a fairytale, with many references (most notably to the Brothers Grimm). This works quite well to the film’s advantage, as there is playfulness to the tone (amidst brutal violence and serious implications), allowing for moments of pleasure and humor (which are needed to break up the action). It also affords quirkiness to the characters, making them even more interesting and memorable. The structure is circular, which some critics complained about in addition to the ending being fairly abrupt and open-ended. But, as the film is a fairytale, the ending works quite well, as the audience can decide for themselves. Too often in modern films everything is spelt out entirely, removing imagination and audience participation. This film leaves the audience with a feeling of content (as Hanna’s story is told), but also allows them to decide what will become of her now that the tale is done (which I like, and think it works much better that way). Hanna is not just another action film; it is aesthetically brilliant with great performances and emotional clout – engaging and wonderful.

Technical and acting achievements: Joe Wright is one of the most exciting directors working today. With his fourth film, he has shown that he processes both a mastery of storytelling and performances, but also a unique and aesthetically interesting style (his long takes, especially the subway fight and container park chase, are a treat). Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons (The Chemical Brothers) deliver such an impressive score (and their first) that fits the tone of the film so well (check out this track off it, container park). Alwin H. Kuchler’s cinematographer is wonderful and beautiful. The use of light and color projects so much character. It will be among the best work this year. Sarah Greenwood’s production design is also astoundingly good, and fitting. Her sets for Grimm’s House (and its surrounding area) and the Moroccan base were brilliant. Overall this is just a special film from a composition point of view (probably the best aesthetics wise I have seen this year, along with Jane Eyre, to date). The cast is just right across the board. Tom Hollander and Jessica Barden are marvelous in their supporting roles (Hollander’s appearance and way made me giggle every time he was on screen, just great performance work). Eric Bana plays his role well. With limited screen time, he coveys his relationship with Hanna very well. Cate Blanchett makes such an amazing villain. She is ruthless, cruel and yet sort of venerable (the performance is a little polarizing, but I contend that it is great). Saoirse Ronan shows that she is a star with her performance in the film. It is a difficult role, but the viewer forgets that they are even watching a character in a film. Ronan is Hanna, completely.

Hanna is a unique film, built on lustrous aesthetics, perfect performances and thrilling action. 9/10

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