October 20, 2011

13.09: HANNA

An ace alternate poster by UK artist Jock
Joe Wright, it seems, is not a director that will do what people expect. This is the man who has previously brought us two English period dramas (one an Austen adaptation!) and a true-life tale about a mentally-broken musician. Now, with Hanna, he gives us an art-house thriller; the espionage film as music-video; Bourne as a not-so-sweet 16 year-old girl. 

The young chameleon more commonly known as Saoirse Ronan is the eponymous Hanna, a remarkable young girl raised in the frozen far North, removed from civilisation by her father Erik (Eric Bana). Erik (with a pretty great Russian accent from Bana) has been raising Hanna in hiding, for her own safety. There are covert powers that would love nothing less than for her to be wiped from the face of the Earth, and these are personified in the brittle and deadly CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett). Hanna and Erik spend their days hunting, learning, fighting and testing. Erik is doing what he can to prepare Hanna for the day when she is ready - ready to be unleashed upon Marissa and the world. He has taught Hanna numerous forms of armed and unarmed combat, a vast array of languages and a host of other skills pertinent to a top secret agent. It's the kind of education that has taught her the theory of music, without her ever hearing any.

And then the day comes when Hanna is ready. The signal is sent, the black helicopters are on their way and Hanna is forced in to the world to kill Marissa and rejoin Erik. What Wright gives us is a chase/espionage/coming-of-age story as Hanna is quickly captured, escapes and hooks up with a vaguely hippy English family in Morocco. She hitches a ride with them and, through their daughter Sophie, catches a glimpse of the "normal" life she has been sorely missing. Marissa, determined to hunt Hanna down at any cost, employs the cruel, camp Isaacs (Tom Hollander - creepy and wonderful) and his henchmen. It's a propulsive plot, moving quickly across countries before climaxing in Berlin, amongst a host of symbolically decrepit playgrounds.

The score by the Chemical Brothers pumps throughout - especially during Hanna's initial escape through tunnels and airducts large and small. It is defintely a case of the score becoming an organic part of the action, the visual and aural feeding and feeding off one another. And Wright proves himself a more than capable action director - the centrepiece being another of his long one-takes involving Eric Bana, a subway and multiple agents being taken down with surgical efficiency. These scenes are also constructed with more thought and care than any other CG spectacles you care to name; these action sequences all speak to character and themes and are meant to be more than just "cool shit".

Hanna is not a perfect film, with a couple of missteps taken, and it will not redefine the action or espionage genres but it is something special and unique. And, in this ever-franchising world, that is something to be enjoyed and celebrated. 

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