Weekend Roundup: HANNA review

I finally venture out into the theater after about a month of a lot of home cinema viewing. All the great reviews on HANNA got me really curious to check it out on opening weekend. It wasn’t powerful enough to defeat HOP in the box office, but managed to finish second with $12.4 million, which is nearly half its production budget. I was considering Soul Surfer as well, which is based on an inspirational true story on a young girl who overcame a shark attack through her strong belief in God. But as I had suspected, the RT consensus said it’s an amazing story that’s ‘drowned by waves of Hollywood cheese.’ I still might check it out on rental though. Oh, I also saw The Book of Eli, which will be reviewed at a later date.

HANNA

Hanna is a movie I’ve been curious about for quite a while, as I blogged about it last June. The cast alone is enough to get me to watch it, Saiorse Ronan is one of my top ten Irish actors, and Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana are two of my all time fave Aussie thespians. But after the trailer was released, I was sort of cool on it as the theme of a child assassin isn’t exactly hot on my must-see list. Yet, to say the title role a child assassin or killing machine is oversimplifying it.

The film opens with Hanna hunting a deer in a deep Finnish wilderness, letting the viewers right away of what kind of training the young protagonist is subjected to by her father, Erik Heller (Bana). Both of them live in a secluded cabin, with no modern amenities/technology nor any connection with the outside world for the past sixteen years. We know that for a measure so drastic, there has to be something huge that they’re preparing for or to survive against, but we’re not told why. The only thing we learn is that Erik has some ties to the CIA, and that their ‘nemesis’ that Erik ceaselessly warns Hanna about is Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett), a CIA officer.

Blanchett + Bana = Great Aussie Duo!

What I like about this film is its puzzle-like quality and how adept the filmmaker is in keeping the big picture under wraps and only revealing the mystery bit by bit, as we learn alongside Hanna what is happening around her and the reason she ‘exists.’ It’s an existential thriller at its core, which reminds me to the Bourne movies, without the shaky hand-held camera style that they’ve been known for.

Hanna w/ Sophie in one of her few ‘lighter’ parts of her tough journey

I personally am glad Joe Wright isn’t copying Paul Greengrass’ style though, but yet still able to create compelling suspenseful sequences that keep us in the edge-of-your-seat virtually the entire time. There are funny bits throughout, mostly during the time Hanna meets up with a free-spirited family vacationing in Morocco, with Sophie, the teenage girl who befriends Hanna, being the much-needed comic relief in the movie.

For those unfamiliar with the filmmaker, Wright is known for his period dramas Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, both of which I adore (hence their inclusion in my Cinematic Alphabet). He’s made a foray into modern drama with The Soloist, which I’m not too impressed with, but in his fourth feature film, Wright certainly proved he’s got the chops to be an action director. Known for his long tracking shots, such as this Dunkirk scene in Atonement, he did it again with Eric Bana‘s fight scene in the underground station. Armed with crafty and sharp cinematography, as well as the high-octane score by The Chemical Brothers, Wright created an exhilarating journey as we follow Hanna from the Polar Circle, through Morocco, Spain and finally Berlin where she’s supposed to reunite with her father.

Hanna isn’t exactly an ‘enjoyable’ fare, it’s not a ‘warm and fuzzy’ kind of movie, but the fast-paced chase is exhilarating and it’s got everything you want in a suspense film. What I enjoyed most is the performances, especially Ronan and Blanchett, the later never cease to amaze me with her acting prowess, she pulls off a Southern accent convincingly, but that’s only a small part in what makes her ruthless character believable. Bana is always watchable though I wish he had a bit more screen time with Blanchett, while the rest British supporting cast: Tom Hollander, Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams are all good in their respective roles.

Ronan, who’s barely 17 years old, is the true revelation here in the title role. She certainly has what it takes to follow in Blanchett footsteps (she probably is there already) and has that ‘transformative’ acting quality about her that’s a sign of acting greatness, check out the photo of her in the movie and what she looks like in real life. She’ll undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with amongst young Hollywood, I look forward to more of her work. Sounds like she’d reunite with Wright for the third time in Leo Tolstoy adaptation Anna Karenina, and rumor has it Wright is courting James McAvoy to join as well, which would be terrific. [ed. note: Well it turns out she didn’t end up getting the role of Anna, Keira Knightley did instead]

All in all, Hanna is a smart thriller that would definitely satisfy fans of action films, but even if suspenseful thrillers aren’t your thing, it’s still worth a watch just for the cast.

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Well, what did you end up seeing this weekend? Or if you got to see HANNA, what are your thoughts on the film?