PLOT: Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a sixteen-year-old unlike any other. Raised by her father, a former CIA agent named Erik Heller (Eric Bana), in the wilderness, and trained to be the perfect assassin- Hanna now finds herself alone in the modern world. Meanwhile, she's being hunted by a ruthless CIA bureau chief Marissa Veigler (Cate Blanchett) who's bent on capturing the girl.
REVIEW: When I first heard the plot to HANNA, I thought it didn't sound like anything special. I mean, teenage-girl assassin? Didn't KICK-ASS already do that? That said, I was intrigued by the high-profile cast, and the fact that Joe Wright, director of PRIDE & PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT, and THE SOLOIST was attached, as he seemed like a unique choice to helm an action film. I also thought the trailer looked mighty impressive, but I still wasn't sure if the premise would sustain a whole film.
Happily, I've lived to eat those words, as HANNA is the most kick-ass action ride I've seen in a long-time. Granted, the premise of HANNA isn't really anything special, but it's all about the execution- which is brilliant. First of all, this is nothing like KICK-ASS. While that was a good film, it was essentially a satire, while HANNA is dead serious, and dare I say it- even somewhat believable (see the film before you mock me). As far as I'm concerned, HANNA puts Joe Wright on the map in a big way as one of the most promising of the new crop of directors that are just coming up.
As much as I've enjoyed Wright's other films (even the much-maligned THE SOLOIST), I think HANNA is his finest, and most entertaining film to date, and that's not just the action fan in me speaking.
HANNA really is unlike any action flick we've seen in a while. It's an art-house/action mash-up that truly feels unique throughout- thanks in no small part to the amazing score by The Chemical Brothers, which ranks right up there with Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross' score for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and Daft Punk's TRON:LEGACY soundtrack. It actually reminded me of the way Tangerine Dream used to score films like SORCERER and THIEF. It's a brilliant, compulsively listen-able score (which I'll admit, I'm pumping through my iPod as I write this), and if there's any justice it'll be remembered at next year's Oscars. Hiring them was an inspired choice.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a C'mon Hollywood complaining about how Hollywood keeps butchering fight scenes, Had I seen HANNA, I might not have written it, as this contains the best action sequence I've seen since the parkour chase in CASINO ROYALE. The sequence in question is a masterful tracking shot (shades of CHILDREN OF MEN, or Wright's own Dunkirk Invasion sequence from ATONEMENT), which follows Eric Bana's character into an underground parking garage as he's stalked by half a dozen adversaries. They rush him, and he ends up fighting off the whole group, while the camera stays far enough away so we can see what Bana's doing throughout- and most impressively, proves he's doing his own fighting.
Besides Wright, if anyone's career deserves a big boost from HANNA it's Bana, as this is probably the best role he's had since MUNICH (a great film, which doesn't get the respect it deserves) or even CHOPPER. Why isn't this guy on the shortlist for more action roles? He's in great shape, can fight, is charismatic, and most importantly, is a great actor. While this is undoubtedly a supporting role, it's still a great, three-dimensional part for Bana, and one which THE BOURNE LEGACY producers should take note of, as the guy would be a natural for that part.
Of course, this is really Saoirse Ronan's film, and I couldn't imagine another actress her age that would have been able to do what she does with the part. It helps that Ronan's got an somewhat ethereal look about her that makes her seem a tad other-worldly, and as the titular HANNA, she has a primal rage that makes her come across as almost feral at times. That said, she keeps a certain sheltered innocence that keeps you firmly on her side throughout, as HANNA, while somewhat cold-blooded, is never cruel, and can be empathetic.
Uniquely, Wright adjusts his storytelling technique whenever we cut to one of the three leads; Ronan, Bana or Blanchett's perpective. When it's centered on Blanchett, it's almost a black comedy, while Bana's part of the film is a lean and mean BOURNE-like thriller. From Hanna's perspective it almost becomes like a fairy-tale (with the Brother's Grimm getting name-checked more than once), particularly in a scene late in the film when Hanna meets one of her father's contacts. In her eyes, the man- who would be strange to anyone else, becomes an almost magical character. It's a fascinating approach, and just one of the many things I loved about HANNA.
Another plus is that Ronan plays the character 100% seriously. No winking at the camera, or action-heroine posing here. This is a raw, ferocious, disciplined performance, and along with her recent turn in THE WAY BACK promises that Ronan will be entertaining us for years to come. For my money, she has the potential to be the next Jodie Foster.
It also helps that Cate Blanchett makes for a throughly despicable villain. Sporting a Southern twang, Blanchett is downright scary as the buttoned up CIA agent, with a sadistic streak a mile long. It's unlike any other role Blanchett has played, and damn is she good. I also loved her henchman, a bleached blond, yellow-tracksuit wearing psycho played by Tom Hollander (who was brilliant in IN THE LOOP). A nice touch has Hollander whistling a motif that frequently appears in the score, throughout the film.
I suppose one could nitpick HANNA a tad, as there's a somewhat clichéd subplot where HANNA takes up with a vacationing family (headed by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng- as the type of hippie-dippie parents that haunt Patton Oswalt's nightmares). However, it all serves a purpose, and as a whole, HANNA is a pretty amazing movie-going experience. While it's still pretty early in 2011 to be picking favourites, HANNA is without a doubt the best studio-film I've seen so-far, and one that I fully expect to turn up on my top 10 list at the end of the year. PLEASE, go see this movie, as we really need creative, outside-the-box, action films like this to be popular. Joe Wright gives me new hope for the future of action cinema. Most importantly, it proves you can make something that's satisfying as both a popcorn film, and a piece of art. Hollywood take notice.
|Extra Tidbit:||David Bowie's song, 'Kooks' is featured on the soundtrack. Bowie actually wrote that song about his son Zowie, aka- director Duncan Jones (SOURCE CODE, MOON).|