A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Visions of HANNA

In action on April 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

There are certain moments where a movie is guaranteed to draw a universal “aww” from it’s audience. HANNA opens with one of those moments. Right before a surge of gore and violence. Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl that has grown up in the woods (and possibly a perpetual winter landscape) with her only human interaction being Erik (Eric Bana). He’s sort of like Liam Neeson’s character from BATMAN BEGINS and Jeremiah Johnson (from the movie, JEREMIAH JOHNSON). He has trained her to be an ultimate and lethal killer.

And boy is she.

The movie from filmmaker Joe Wright (ATONEMENT, PRIDE & PREJUDICE) takes us on a journey through strange locations filmed spectacularly, while giving us a story with many zigs and zags, that stays pretty close to conventional thriller tropes. But manages to really work the twist that the action hero here is a young girl without becoming too unrealistic, or trying to stun us with flashy, action set-pieces that usually only serve to show that they’re…well, action set-pieces. With locations as varied as trippy, underground military bunkers; a Grimm Brothers fantasy wasteland; and deserted icy tundras, Hanna ventures to places that seem familiar but look like they could be on alien worlds. It also supports how disturbingly beautiful the characters are shot as well.

It’s been commented on many times how pixyish Saoirse Ronan looks and here accentuated even more by her albino-esque hair and complete lack of knowledge on modern life. But even the other, grown up characters have features that make them ooze that these are not just normal people. Bana with his German accent, and awkward paranoia (then again, he always kind of looks that way, but just naturally he stands out); Blanchett with her southern drawl, strange 90’s red haircut and suits, and menacing teeth that might as well be filed into fangs. There’s the group of evil lackeys on the hunt for our heroes (led in this case by a whistling, German-accented Tom Hollander). And even the innocent by-standers in the form of a British family traveling through Europe is led by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng, as a pair of hippie parents. With Jessica Barden and Aldo Maland as their kids. Barden being the real stand-out character in the movie. Her general attitude and spouting things like talking about Sri-Lankan rapper, MIA and talking all gangster in-between being grossed out by her parents romantic trysts.

Supporting the action scenes, and some of the other moments, is the soundtrack by techno-group The Chemical Brothers. The repeated move to bring in these kind of musicians (also see THE SOCIAL NETWORK and TRON: LEGACY), it’s fun to see scores moving away from the classical way they’ve been done in the past. (Though I know that groups like The Dust Brothers, U2 and so on have worked on movies in the past.) I like seeing different kinds of musicians play in this playground as opposed to conventional composers applying different tools to their regular toolboxes. (I also realize that this entire paragraph is pretty much useless. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed The Chemical Brothers’ score.)

What really made me like this movie a lot, is just how brutal and just straight-forward it’s storytelling is. Yes, I’m stuck still thinking about SUCKER PUNCH. While there’s the argument to be made that the position Sucker Punch takes in sexualizing the women who it’s seemingly meant to be empowering, is actually demeaning and exploitive. HANNA also approaches it from the other side. Ronan and even to an extent, Blanchett, are empowered and complete ass-kickers, but they’re also gruesome and made almost grotesque. Blanchett looks beautiful, but the coldness and certain quirks she’s shown having, make her almost monstrous. (There’s one moment in particular of her in the bathroom, that is just insane and totally unexplained.)

But, at the same time those aesthetics make sense in the world this movie takes place in. While I anticipated there to be moments where we’d really get to see Hanna and Erik kicking ass – and we do – I was pleased with how simple the movie played out.

It’s just a plain, old good action thriller.

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