Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hanna: An action film about music

One of the first things I thought about Hanna, before seeing it, was that I could guess the shock ending...  I was wrong.  Although, Joe Wright isn't exactly one for a twist ending, he is a story teller, and he tells it well.  

There are obvious comparisons with this film, Luc Bessons Leon and La Femme Nikita being the most clear.  Studying Bessons style, Wright's take on the unlikely killer pulls no punches, but with his history in period drama (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) I would expect him to have delivered more character development.  Having said that, it could be argued that this, his fourth feature film credits the viewer with a brain of his own.  Rather than developing the character before our eyes, he uses metaphor and script to imply adolescence and inexperience.  Sets include a Hansel and Gretel-esque cabin in the woods and a defunct fairground.  The main foe, Cate Blanchett, is referred to as "the witch".  Hanna herself is scared of the things that have been neglected in her education, fast cuts and erratic pans put us into her panicky position.  Her upbringing and education become clear without the need for flashback or montage.

When we meet Hanna, she has never heard music before, asking "What does music feel like?" the answer comes as a dictionary definition.  From here the film has a subplot told in tune.  The soundtrack really is great, featuring the Chemical Brothers it often emphasises and sometimes juxtaposes scenes, there is harsh and fast music, slow and sweet, dance, rock and classical.  Activity takes on rhythm.  One character even has a signature melody, which adds a very creepy tinge to the whole proceeding.

I think it's pretty clear that I liked the film, and there are many reasons for this.  Look out for the fight choreography, it is second to none, I'd be surprised if none of the actors picked up real and painful injuries.  Saoirse Ronan, who plays Hanna is very good, she's sweet and innocent, naive and deadly.  Tom Hollander is super freaky, he reminded me of the boys in the Austrian film Funny Games (later remade in Hollywood).  The direction is good and the on location shots are done delicately and well.  Often films set in many different countries become touristy, this does not, it relies on language, culture and script to let us know where we are as and when we need to.  

All the good stuff said though, I wasn't as convinced as some about the greatness of the film.  Eric Bana wasn't as bad as he was in Hulk, but only because he was forgettable.  He had some good scenes too, this could really have been a film to bring him up the Hollywood ranks.  Cate Blanchett was a great foe, we've seen her do hard before and she does it well, but she acts with a very thick southern U.S. accent which leaves you staring at the screen thinking "she's is acting with a funny accent":  The thing about this point, is that I get the feeling that it was a considered decision to give her such a thick regional tone, and I can't for the life of me figure out why.  Finally, Hanna's allies in the story are a middle class British family on their travels.  They don't inspire sympathy and they are completely unlikable but ashamedly with that comes believability.

I like the film but was left wanting.


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