Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist and Hanna these are the films of director Joe Wright's career and there is an oddity in that list. Hanna is different to the corsets and massive country estates of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, it is a massive step in a completely different direction as Wright attempts to create an action thriller and within one attempt he crafts a film that is more enjoyable than anything Michael Bay has ever made. Hanna is a story of a girl attempting to find out her identity, Hanna is also a modern fairytale referencing to stories such as The Brother's Grim.

In the freezing wastelands of Northern Finland are an ex CIA agent father, named Erik Heller (Eric Bana) and his sixteen year old daughter named Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan). Erik is training Hanna to the extreme as she hunts wild animals and performs demanding exercises in order to prepare her for a mission. The mission in question assigns Hanna to kill Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), Hanna must flick the switch, which will notify the world of their whereabouts, when she is ready and only then she can kill Marissa but things do not go exactly to plan.

Joe Wright takes a step in a completely different direction compared to his previous films as Wright attempts to prove he has variety in his directorial talents and with Hanna, Wright has shown he can make a cracking action-thriller. Hanna is mostly entertaining throughout (taking a few stumbles in the second act) due to some impressive cinematography and editing during the action and chase sequences. Paul Tothill (Hanna's editor) is one of the main highlights of the film providing some fast, efficient and excellent editing that works brilliantly with the soundtrack. However it has to be said that, only occasionally mind, the editing is so over stylised that it becomes a gimmick. The over stylisation is more obvious in the scene in which Hanna escapes from the CIA detention centre in Morocco, it becomes slightly distracting, however this issue is limited to that one scene. The electronic funky score by The Chemical Brothers is superb and indeed as the director says 'does not disappoint.' The electric score and the superb editing gets the adrenaline pumping but while the action scenes are exciting they are never tense, the viewer ends up enjoying the spectacle  but nothing more as Hanna misses our heart.

Hanna goes accents galore as many of the cast members adopt various accents from around the world. Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan adopt German accents, Cate Blanchett adopts a slow Texas drawl and Jessica Barden (who plays a girl called Sophie) adopts the silliest English accent for a long, long time. However with all this said, the performances are superb. Saoirse Ronan holds the film together in a fantastic central performance. Ronan, who convinced the producers to hire Joe Wright to direct, worked hard to be in the right physical shape spending hours being trained in martial arts and even more hours in the gym (apparently Ronan spent four hours a day of intense training for two months to prepare for the role). Saoirse Ronan is clearly one of the finest rising talents in the film industry and a performance like the one she gave in Hanna will only add to her ever increasing reputation, Ronan clearly is one for the future. Cate Blanchett is icily cold as Marissa Wiegler adopting a slow, chilling Texas drawl. Wiegler's steel like determination and the emotionless, expressionless face invites comparisons to The Terminator as she is a woman on a mission to kill and nothing looks set to stop her. Eric Bana churns out a decent performance but he is underused playing a supporting role that sits in the middle between being a major and a minor supporting role.

One of the other issues with Hanna is the rather large tonal shifts throughout the film's 110 minute running time. There are moments of quite brutal violence, as Hanna overpowers plenty of professionally trained CIA agents, but there are also moments of comedy when the hippy family of four consisting of Sebastian (Jason Flemyng) Rachel (Olivia Williams), their teenage daughter, Sophie, (who befriends Hanna) and their young son. The rather crazy and hippie family provide the film's comedy moments but while this can be entertaining it causes Hanna to lose some of the pace in the plot. The second act includes some pointless scenes that are there for no particular reason (including a scene involving some flamenco musicians that drags on for a very long time). The comedy and the action aren't really successfully gelled together and the friendly relationship that Sophie and Hanna build is slightly cheesy.

Despite its flaws Hanna remains, mostly, entertaining, the pace of the plot may falter when the hippy family are introduced but Hanna has many positives that include Saoirse Ronan's tremendous performance, Cate Blanchett's chilling performance as the evil witch of this modern day fairy tale, the visual flair during the action sequences and the superb, electrifying soundtrack. Yes, the plot holes are big enough to fit the whole population of China in (why could Hanna not just blend in with the crowd? Why flick the switch?) However Joe Wright's impressive directing and his unique take on the revenge thriller provide plenty to enjoy. Joe Wright successfully makes an enjoyable, yet slightly uneven, action movie within one attempt.


1 comment:

  1. Saw this a few days ago and totally agree with you about the changes in tone, it didn't quite work. The first scenes of Hanna and her dad in the woods were brilliant, but i did think it lost its way more and more as it went on. Good reviews all around by the way, nicely written!