Apr 9, 2011

REVIEW: Hanna (dir. Wright)

Who knew? Who would have guessed that all the ingredients that make up the Bourne thrillers— rogue American assassins, European locations, existential crises, kick-boxing — could be so seamlessly melded with a coming-of-age fable about a 14-year-old-girl? I guess such adaptability was always implicit; Bourne was one of the least macho action-movie franchise to come out of Hollywood in recent memory, prizing speed, agility and stealth over those walking armories — Schwarzenegger, Willis, Stallone — who staggered through the eighties and nineties with rocket launchers strapped to their biceps. CGI changed all that — changed the physics of movies. Suddenly, mass was out; the ability to dodge bullets was in; muscle-bound hunks gave way to slim, svelte ephebes like Keanu Reeves and Matt Damon, who could leap Tunisian rooftops in one bound and cling by their fingertips to two-inch wide ledges on the side of Swiss banks. The handover to 14-year-old girls was but a step away. Even so, director Joe Wright makes a long, glorious leap of imagination in Hanna, his intoxicatingly-directed thriller about a young girl (Saoirse Ronan), brought up in the forest by her dad (Eric Bana) to disembowel deer, snap the neck of humans, and order a capuccino in eleven different European languages. As much as Hanna enjoys memorising information about the imaginary German friends she is supposed to name upon being arrested by the authorities, however, she yearns for something more, like most girls her age, and is granted it when a little red light goes off on the desk of Cate Blanchet back at CIA Langley headquarters alerting the two women to each other's presence. Dressed in a sharp grey suit, with an equally sharp red bob, and a wandering Southern accent, Blanchet is basically reprising her role in the last Indiana Jones film and the repetition trips her up into self-satisfaction: she's too languid and purring, like a cross between a Bond villain and his cat, when what we needed to feel, I think, is the cold steel of someone going to work. For the first hour, though, it little matters. Hanna has a beautiful lift to it, shuffling its locations as if slaking Hanna's sheer thirst for the world. Wright wheels on Moroccan washer-women and Spanish flamenco dancers, Droog-like German sadists with scary blonde hair, and Ronan drinks them all in, her powder-blue eyes seeming to contain whole skies. I wasn't the biggest fan of Wright's Atonement, but the bits I liked the best involved Ronan, and the rapport Wright seemed to have struck up with this eerily self-possessed performer; here he bores in even closer on those azure irises, until at times the entire movie seems to take place behind them, in some enchanted place where the Brothers Grimm mixes it up with Robert Ludlum, and international intrigue takes on the flavor of a schoolgirl's jaunt. Best of all is a British girl, on holiday with her parents, played by Jessica Barden who delivers the funniest performance I've seen in a motion picture this year: haughty and heedless, her head teaming with boy bands and gossip mags and boob jobs and so exactly the kind of human being you don't expect to come across in Ludlumland — she seems to have wandered in from one of Mike Leigh's cheerier productions, rattling off her lines as if all these spies were intruding on her time, thank you very much — that my mind couldn't get ahead of the implications of her performance fast enough. I wanted her in every scene. I wanted her in every film I watch for the remainder of this year. In all honesty, I cannot imagine a single movie that wouldn't be improved by the presence of this imperious, round-faced princess although the new Terence Malick might have some maneuvring to do to make room. Lucky Malick. On the other hand, I could have done without the climactic set piece set in the Brothers Grimm theme park. I prefer my subtext a little more sub-. Wright had already flagged his film as a modern fairytale by the expeditious method of having Hanna read a Grimm fairytale in the first five minutes; I didn't need a character actually called Grimm, holed up in a gingerbread cottage, to drive the point home. His eye can be a little overcandied and in the final furlong, his art direction gets the better of his direction, with the characters almost seeming to pause mid-punch, check their watches, confer, then agree to meet up in another, even more splendid location to finish the job of kicking the shit out of one another. But the fighting is nicely done: Wright finds at least two wholly new ways of showing someone getting shot in this film. Two. How much more can you ask for in a film? B+


  1. average kind of movie. The film fails to create its own identity right from the start intertwining two distinctly different plots. The slow beginning foreshadows both that of an action film and a teenage development flick.

  2. Action film is a film genre where one or more heroes is thrust into a series of challenges that require physical feats, extended fights and frenetic chases.

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