Hanna

2 May

Title: Hanna
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Joe Wright
Writers: Seth Lochhead and David Farr, based on a story by Seth Lochhead
Starring: 
Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language
Runtime: 
111 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
71%

I had some pretty supreme expectations going into Hanna. First of all, it was directed by Joe Wright, the man who has given us both Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, two pretty much perfect films that had two stellar performances from Keira Knightley, and this time around even though Ms. Knightley wasn’t around he recruited seventeen-year-old Saoirse Ronan, whom he directed to an Oscar nomination in Atonement, to play the leading role of a teenage assassin. And, secondly, the cast was truly awesome, not only was Saoirse Ronan involved, who I think is one of the probably three best young actresses out there, but so were Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett and Olivia Williams, who are all sorts of amazing themselves.

The story’s pretty great really, a terrific screenplay crafted by first-timers Seth Lochhead and David Farr from a story by Mr. Lochhead that had attracted the likes of Danny Boyle and Alfonso Cuarón before Mr. Wright was given the reigns of the project. And that’s really why I loved Hanna so much, because this was a pretty unique and refreshing take on the revenge thriller genre, and because it showed that Mr. Wright, who was known mostly for the performances he directed in thoughtfully-paced period films, was also quite adept at crafting some pretty damn thrilling action sequences, while losing none of his touch with the performances he gets from his whole cast in this one.

Honestly, it was a surprise to see that Mr. Wright did so incredibly well at crafting such a high-octane action thriller, his movies are generally much more meditative and slow-burning, while also unequivocally beautiful, and to see him stretch himself here was a pure joy, the guy has an eye for making killing look gorgeous, and along with his usual production designer, Sarah Greenwood, the man makes a colorful statement in this genre that I’ll no doubt have a hard time forgetting, this is a true piece of art and I can’t wait to own it on blu-ray.

I honestly loved this film, I loved how a director so masterfully avoided pigeon-holing himself as a guy who only did period dramas and how he elegantly crafted a hyperactive thriller that deals with espionage and a teen girl assassin to the beat of a sublime score by The Chemical Brothers that punctuates this film’s kickass attitude. From the very get-go this film establishes how savage its titular character is, she’s seen hunting a deer in a snowy forest with a bow and later on fighting hand-to-hand with her own father. This is all part of this training her father has been given her since she was born, she’s been raised in this remote location, never seen anything else or no one else that isn’t her father, who’s been teaching her how to fight, hunt and generally survive, while imparting upon her a wide range of knowledge straight from an encyclopedia.

But even though Hanna is a very ass-kicking sort of film, it also is, at its very core, a coming-of-age story, one that may have all this beautifully stylized action and that amazing and gorgeous long tracking shot we’ve come to expect from Mr. Wright by now, but one that is all about the characters, because really the talent of the actors behind them makes us care a whole lot about their predicament.

And even though Ms. Ronan here is acting alongside Mr. Bana and Ms. Blanchett (who I consider to be one of the five best living actresses) she’s the real reason to praise the acting of this film. We knew she was immensely talented from her work in Atonement, of course, and she proved that she wasn’t a one-hit-wonder by being the best thing (along with Stanley Tucci) in The Lovely Bones, and was great in this year’s very good The Way Back. She is honestly stunning here, this is a very different role for her, and would be a truly challenging one for any actor, and yet she completely owns it, and more than stands her ground in her scenes along these acting greats, this is a young woman who will have us talking about her talent for years to come, and I’m beyond myself with how much joy that gives me.

But anyways, back to the story at hand, Hanna’s father was training her to become this perfect little assassin. And so it happens that he used to work for the CIA, and that the two of them have been living in isolation all this time for a good reason, and that’s that they are both wanted by the government. So when Hanna herself decides that her training is over and a life in isolation is no longer the right call we see what happens when she lets herself be found, and as soon as she comes on the grid of Marissa Wiegler, the CIA agent who wants her and her father captured and who’s played by Ms. Blanchett, the hunt for her begins, and we see just what happens when the first to come after her approach her as though she was this little girl who had been shut away from society for her whole life. That first scene in which we get to see what Hanna is capable of is beautifully done, choreographed to perfection and rhythmically punctuated by beats from the aforementioned score by The Chemical Brothers which really gives this film a great feel.

And so Hanna, alone, is thrusted into the real world, that which she hand’t known except from what her father read to her. And it’s awesome to see her experience this world for the first time, the film at times turning into a road movie in which we get to see her in Morocco, Spain and with her father in Berlin, as well as meeting this sort of new-age English family on vacation in Morocco who help her out a bit, and who’s teenage daughter becomes the first friend of Hanna’s life.

And even though a lot of Hanna is kind of predictable and formulaic, and even takes some of its cues and feel from fairy tales, it’s never not fun, and Mr. Wright really does have a knack for crafting an enthralling film and getting superb performances from his whole cast. And I’ll take this final moment to once again praise the talents of Ms. Ronan, she’s on-screen for pretty much the whole film and it’s her intensity, as well as how she seems to wear her heart on her sleeve quite a lot, that make her more than capable of carrying this film to greatness. With Hanna Mr. Wright demonstrates that no matter the genre he’s more than capable himself of delivering a truly sensational film, full of his stylized visuals that are so often breathtaking and that show us why he’s one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, just a job really well done here.

Grade: A-

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