Movie Review: Hanna


Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana & Cate Blanchett

Directed by: Joe Wright

Written by: Seth Lochhead and David Farr. Story by Seth Lochhead

Often times when you go into a movie you aren’t certain what you are going to get. Sure, you can see previews and read reviews but there’s always the possibility you’ll be surprised. This one of the great as well as awful things about spending money to go see a film. More often than not it seems that people are drawn into a bad film based on a clever trailer and leave disappointed. Sometimes though a film can end up being better than you expected.

Such was the fortunate case for me in seeing Hanna. Sure I like Joe Wright as a director, after all 2 out of his other 3 features (minus the abysmally reviewed/received “The Soloist”) have been quite good. And although Bana and Blanchett have more pluses than minuses in my book, their respective presences do not guarantee a film’s quality.

The biggest x factor of course was Saoirse Ronan herself. I have only seen the recently turned 17 year old actress in one other film to date, the exceptional 2007 Joe Wright directed film Atonement. However I was impressed with the gravitas and talent that she brought to the screen at the time. I have also heard she was great in the otherwise lackluster film adaptation of the The Lovely Bones. I am pleased to see not only did she not disappoint, but she helped make the film exceed my expectations.

Hanna (Ronan) has grown up in the wilds near the arctic circle. She has never known more than her relatively simple very low tech life. However despite their less than modern accommodations, her father Erik (Bana), a man with a mysterious past, has given her a very deep and varied education including a multitude of languages, sharp shooting and deadly hand to hand combat skills. Essentially he has trained her to be an assassin. When the time comes and Hanna decides she is ready she is able to send a signal notifying auhorities where they are. This alerts Marissa (Blanchett), a former colleague of her father’s, that Erik is in fact still alive and sets into motion events that will challenge Hanna’s ability to survive.

This film truly did impress me on a number of levels. There are a goodly number of high action sequences and I was very pleased with the skill in which Wright and cinematographer Alwin Kuchler were able to capture everything without relying on recent conventions of blurred movement and shaky cams which have been become staples of action sequences in recent years. Beyond that there were in fact a number of shots worked in that were fairly unique and did not detract from the viewing experience.

Eric Bana delivers a solid and believable performance as Hana’s well meaning father. Their relationship despite moments of violence between them is truly the emotional heart of the story. Regardless of how unconventional their lives are in the film you can’t help but think he did his damnedest to be a good father.

Equally skilled was the far more often great than not Cate Blanchett. Though she has been in a few films I consider duds (cough Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the cash grab sequel cough) she generally is one of the highlights of the films she chooses and has enormous range in her craft. As the decidedly vile Marissa she delivers yet again, bringing a believable foil and counterpoint to Erik.

But as I stated before the success of this film mainly rests on the shoulders of Saiorse Ronan. She is magnificent as the titular character. She conveys such intensity that she doesn’t just hold her own in the scenes she shares with the other leads, she owns them. I cannot say enough how impressed I was with her. Training for the role could not have been easy by a long shot and in the hands of a less capable actress the action scenes would not have been half as believable. The best thing I can think of to describe her character is the grit and determination of Sarah Conner or Ellen Ripley meeting the the skill and deadliness of Hit Girl. In other words, she may look sweet and innocent, but do not fuck with her.

In retrospect the story isn’t perfect. There are themes that are touched on but not fully explored or developed. There are other aspects that they just ask us to take for granted that seem fantastical. However a film like this requires a certain willing suspension of disbelief. It’s close enough to being plausible and that helps its cause. And the way in which the film comes full circle is both brutal to a degree and should be satisfying to the viewer.

2011 has thus far not been exactly spectacular on the film front. Granted there are a number of titles coming in the next weeks and months that fans of any number of styles can appreciate and enjoy. In the meantime however in my mind Hanna is the film that has most stood out to be noticed. The collaboration of Wright and Ronan has delivered another gem. I give it 6 beers.

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