Monday, July 18, 2011

We Agree (sorta): Hanna

2011, Joe Wright -- cinema

Despite coming to the film late in its theatrical run, despite reading numerous reviews and hearing numerous people comment on it both positively and negatively, despite having played the Chemical Brothers' soundtrack on repeat for multiple weeks, despite my favourable response and keen interest after each viewing of the trailer, I was still quite surprised by Hanna. Hanna is... how best do I put this... very European in its sensibilities. It's greatest credit is that it's not a loud, obnoxious, hollow American style action movie. It's rather a stylish, at times meditative, but still hollow in some respects old-timey globetrotting action movie. In its heart it's a Bourne Identity/James Bond homage, merged with (as David, and its director Joe Wright, stated) a Grimm's Fairy Tale.

The opening sequence takes place in a remote wintry location. I'm an absolute sucker for films, action sequences specifically, that take place in winter settings. Far too few films take advantage of juxtaposition of violence contrasted with the stark-white beauty of a snowy landscape. Though he only utilizes the setting for the opening 20 minutes of the film, Wright does so beautifully... up to a point. The only folly in the film's style is a garish sequence involving a helicopter/CIA raid on Eric and Hanna's cabin, full of cheap-looking "night vision" and spastic editing, it's an ugly mole on an otherwise beautiful face... but more in the Cindy Crawford mole sense in that it doesn't completely detract from the beauty.

Rather quickly following, however is the film's most fantastic sequence, Hanna's escape sequence which is so perfectly edited in time with the Chemical Brother's thudding soundtrack. It's evident that Hill's crew found a really cool location to shoot in and they made perfect use of it.

As David mentions in his review, there are more than a handful of sequences that just stick in one's brain, and in that sense it's a memorable film. Not for any specific story element, not for any specific character element, it's fully style and sensibility which rule this film... some might find this isn't enough for them, that far too many questions are left unanswered, but in one sense I see this as a film you experience empathically. You're either tuned into it or you're not.

The film is, on the one hand, extremely cold emotionally, as nearly every character seems to have no sense of conscience, their moral compass spinning with the needle tip broken off. Yet, on the other hand, it's not a cold film at all. There's always a sense of one emotion or another driving a character, be it fear, pleasure, love, kindness, etc. Saoirse Ronan as Hanna plays a cold fish punch for punch as well as Cate Blanchett, but both at the same time play their characters as if choking down any emotional reaction, like they've been trained to.

Much like many an espionage/spy film from the '60's and '70's, there's a lot of eccentricity-for-the-sake-of-eccentricity in Hanna. Key among them is Tom Hollander's Isaac as the nefarious German assassin, an expert murderer whom Cate Blanchett's Marissa turns to to deal with Hanna in an unofficial capacity. Isaac is a deviant with vague sexual fetishes which likely tip both ways like a see-saw. He's got two died-in-the-wool skinheads as lackey's/boy-toys which adeptly describes the films wry, to the point of non-existence, sense of humour.

As this year passes, and the many garish and tedious exercises in CGI action cinema are forgotten, Hanna will remain one of the few that stays vibrant, if not actually growing in status in the aftermarket.

(now read David's Take)