Wednesday, 11 May 2011


2011. Dir: Joe Wright. Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander and Olivia Williams. ●●●●○

We have an interesting parallel for my review with Thor last weekend. Like the Marvel adaptation Hanna feels almost like two films tied together, the first a look at the almost superheroic powers of our heroine Saoirse Ronan, the other a gentle fish out of water comedy as Hanna mixes with "normal" people - a hippy family floating around Morocco. Where this movie outperforms the former is the general sense of menace, the stakes here are real, people - the innocent as well as the culpable - will get hurt just for interacting with the girl.

The story opens with Hanna living with her father, Eric Bana, in a woodcutters cottage close to the Arctic circle. He's educating her in every skill she'll need to know; a selection of languages, how to gut a caribou, the theory of music and how to break a man's neck. Understandable it's not a normal child-raising but then Hanna is not an ordinary child. Able to beat her father in combat you can see the strength and agility in every move she makes. We learn little about her at this point, but pay attention as every point that's made will be important later in the plot. From her words to the deer to the Grimm's fairy tales book she reads.

Indeed it's that link to Grimm that completely overwhelms the basic story. This is a modern fairy tale, one that takes our heroine from her humble beginnings through a journey of self-discovery where she must confront an evil step-mother (semi-renegade CIA agent Cate Blanchett) and face some cold truths about her own origins.

The closest to reality this film has is the foster like family, led by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng as a bickering and fascinating couple taking their children across Morocco and Southern Europe and reacting to the introduction and consequences of meeting the precocious protagonist. In this middle section Hanna begins to emotionally connect to her new family, experiencing a sense of familial attachment for the first time. This family are built on love not on a desperate need to avenge history.

In the meantime Blanchett recruits her wolves. A peroxide wigged Tom Hollander camply preening around his sex shops and neo-nazi thugs oozing menace like a predator in tennis shorts.

All the performances work in context of the movie, the grounded work by Williams and Flemyng nicely counterpointing the overacting of Hollander and Blanchett who totally owns the role, completely unafraid of working the stereotypes. The revelatory performance though is from Saoirse Ronan, with her clear eyes and virtually translucent skin she perfectly portrays the innocence and tenacity of the character, facing the collapse of her world and fighting her way through to the other side. It's hard to imagine this is the same girl who deservedly earned her first oscar nomination as the meddlesome sister in Joe Wright's Atonement.

Wright has proved himself a versatile and superb director with a picture that would at first glance appear to be completely outside of his comfort zone. Capable of creating tension in quiet scenes and filming some of the most well choreographed action scenes I've seen for a while this makes the prospect of Wright moving back into costume dramas for Anna Karenina seem just a little disappointing.

The film isn't perfect, there are some odd inconsistencies in Hanna's understanding and reaction to technology (partly I expect as a plot cheat) and the Chemical Brothers soundtrack doesn't work all the way through (although kudos to the second film in a year to feature Greig's In the Hall of the Mountain King and in a way that feels more natural and plot-underlining than The Social Network 8 months ago).

This is the first must see I've seen from this years crop, highly recommended and if this doesn't make it to my top ten at the end of the year then I'll probably have to eat my hat.


Jose said...

I am truly dying to see this!
Sounds like you had fun with it.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Hell yeah. If this doesn't make my top ten for 2011 then we're in for a fantastic year of cinema.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Hell yeah. If this doesn't make my top ten for 2011 then we're in for a fantastic year of cinema.