Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Review: Hanna

I've spoken about Hanna before, in one of my Films I Saw Recently segments. But here it is again, now that I've become thoroughly obsessed by it.

2011, Directed by Joe Wright.
Written 17/4/13

Hanna is a film that combines several different genres and only just manages to get away with it, doing so in an unenviably slick style that aims to satisfy everybody. Initially presented as a sci-fi influenced action movie, the story opens out onto a cornucopia of fnatasy imagery and strong characterisations that are not only marvellously progressive (most of the time) but which create long-lasting and timeless figures.
     Hanna (Saoirise Ronan) is a young girl raised by former US spy Erik Heller (Eric Bana), hidden away in the Siberian woods and taught only the encyclopedia, several languages and how to survive and fight. The pair are being hunted by tough CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) who has old business with Heller and is responsible for the death of Hanna's mother. Upon their agreement, Hanna is released into the world, and upon escaping the CIA's capture, she makes her way across Europe to meet up with her father again and discover not only the truth behind her conception, but also the joys of the human experience.
     To start off with, many kudos to The Chemical Brothers, the Mancunian (yay) electro group who created the film's incredibly detailed and action-packed score. When I bought this film online I had to buy the soundtrack as well - from the graceful African-influenced tones of Hanna's Theme to the creepy nursery rhyme feel of The Devil in the Details. The music ties the film together exceptionally well, and the way that it matches with the visual direction is often absurdly good - there's a chase scene where the pace of the actors' footprints matches that of the beat exactly.
     Both Hanna and Wiegler are strong characters, and are some of the strongest female characters I've seen in cinema. They both harbour many layers of compexity, and their roles as dramatic foils are exceedingly well-written. Hanna, despite her isolation from the modern world and her disorientation when faced with modern amenities, is immediately empathisable through her pragmatic attitude and her burning curiosity for something more to the human experience. Blanchett's Wiegler, despite a slightly out-of-place Southern accent, is captivating as the ruthless villain whose admiration and perhaps parental attitude towards Hanna is countered by her underhanded determination to pacify her and/or use her as a weapon.
Saorise Ronan pitches the character perfectly - her every
action tells us a little something more about who Hanna is.
     One of the aspects of the film that makes it so memorable is the direction by Joe Wright, which is completely different to that of his previous films (Pride of Prejudice and Atonement) and is a great deal more ambitious, too. Disorientating chase scenes, epic fight sequences, a one-shot through the streets of Berlin down into the Bahnhof. I also love the way in which he incorporates some of the film's strong fairy-tale thematic imagery too, especially in the House of Wilhelm Grimm, which is a vivid recreation of Hanna's childhood dream worlds.
     Hanna's main criticism could be that the sci-fi idea running up its jacksy was executed in a lacklustre fashion. And while that could be said to be true, that concept is only a device, and is by no means the film's focus, which is on the struggle for freedom from the past's mistakes and on attempting to discover what it means to feel human. And in that regard, Hanna succeeds tremendously. It may have all the credentials of a forgettable thriller, but Hanna's subtle underlayers shine through to such an extent that it has quickly become one of my favourite films.


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