Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hanna (2011)

Image from IMP Awards

Hanna (2011)

Director Joe Wright, better known for his period dramas like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, decided to direct an action film. The end result is original and unconventional while still adhering to all the trappings and formula that goes with the genre.

The story revolves around a young girl, the eponymous Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), who at the start of the film is being raised in the snowy wilderness of Finland by her father Erik (Eric Bana), who is training her to be an assassin. They are hiding from an agency and an agent, Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who for reasons that are initially unclear wants them captured and possibly killed. Wanting to experience the world for herself, Hanna enters civilization for the first time in her life and must elude both Marissa and her sadistic henchman Isaacs (Tom Hollander).

At face value and in terms of plot it seems uninspired and indeed there are some action movie cliches and coincidences that are eyebrow raising, but there's more to this film than a synopsis can convey. The characters have substance and their own personal stories; in particular, Hanna's getting to grips with society, people, and adolescence is handled entertainingly and intelligently. The characters are organically integrated into the plot, which in turn is propulsive (even when stretching the boundaries of plausibility) and reveals itself in layers, building up to a satisfying if low key conclusion.

The performances are great and deliver on the promise of the cast, especially the much lauded Ronan in the lead role, who is equal parts naively wide eyed girl and lethal killing machine. Bana is reliably badass and I would've loved to watch a whole movie about his character; the always reliable Blanchett is believably ruthless and scheming (and complex), and the less heavily advertised Hollander rounds out the cast with a twisted and darkly comical portrayal.

Wright, outside of his drama safe zone, excels with the dramatic elements of the story but most surprisingly delivers on the action front as well, with several exceptional sequences each of which is stylistically different and satisfying. It's a visually appealing film and the thumping soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers really rounds things off.

Hanna is an excellent action film that doesn't quite attain the level of 'brilliant' due to a few trite genre elements and some ill advised marginal characters Hanna runs in to who are hit and miss. Definitely worth a watch as long as you don't go in expecting an action fest, as the bouts of action aren't exactly abundant (but are worth the wait). It's more a mixture of drama, thriller, and action, and all the better for it.

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