Hanna (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
8Sep/111

Hanna (2011)

Joe Wright is such a magnificent director.  In Hanna, much like in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, I felt waves of physical stimulation while watching his film.  As Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) maneuvered through Morocco I tasted spices, as she passed through Spain I heard the music and fought the urge to dance, and as she trained with her father (Eric Bana) in the snowy landscape I felt the goosebumps form down my arm.

If that sounds like a fun romp of James Bond-like proportions then I need to prepare you for otherwise.  What Hanna does is effectively take the piss out of the charm and sophistication of being a globe-trotting assassin and equates it instead with a journey through alien terrain that is hostile and unfriendly.  Wright has managed to effortlessly blend an approach to the spy-thriller that's equal parts Alice In Wonderland and Bond to show just how xenophobic the latter is.

The plot seems out of Revenge Film 101 but contains a number of tricky obstacles to think about.  Hanna's father, Erik, has been training his daughter to become a multi-lingual assassin ever since she was born.  When the time comes, or for those in tune to one level of subtext the moment her adolescence blossoms, she is to press a button which will take her away from her father and put her in the middle of a war.  On the other side is the deliciously icy Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett, played with a ferocious coldness I've never seen from her), a CIA officer who can't let Erik escape with what he knows.

I am in awe of Saoirse Ronan's ability to overtake every other performer with her confidence.

This movie is rife with so many different layers of subtext that much praise is due to Seth Lochhead for crafting the story and David Farr for assisting in writing the screenplay.  There's the delicious psychological subtext of Hanna entering her adolescence just at the point which her father should not be the only man in her life, combined with the intensity of Marissa's hunt for her hinting at an Electra Complex in the making.  Then there's the way it mixes so many cultures with some amazing used of scenery to create a palpable sense of anti-xenophobia present in many thrillers.  There's so much more and the screenplay alone makes Hanna more than worthy of repeated viewings.

All that delicious subtext aside, let's luxuriate for a moment on this glorious presentation of courtesy of Wright and cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler.  Rarely have I seen a camera move with such patience and certainty through so many different kinds of terrain with nary a cut in sight.  Wright, like his contemporary Alfonso Cuaron, favors unbroken shots to heighten the tension and one masterful chase scene explodes in the briefest of violence because of his steady hand behind the camera.

No matter the locale, Hanna always finds a way to highlight the fantastical and beautifully inviting all the foreign environs are.  This threatens to spin out into parody during a late-film sequence involving a musician and "magic mushrooms".  But still the right tone is kept between playful exploration and the promise of violence just in sight of Hanna.

Blanchett cozy's up to the screen like a snake.

But no matter how great the visuals, Hanna's strength lies entirely in the overwhelmingly plentiful acting chops of Saoirse Ronan.  She's able to hint at so much through her coldness, which is more calculated to mislead than in Blanchett's performance, which is 100% honest in it's cruelty.  Soirse's Hanna is filled with much more confidence, bristling at the edges with determination and wonder.  Rarely are films as focused as when she's on the hunt, or as delighted when taking in new foods.

Hanna is as inventive as Columbiana is rote.  Revenge thrillers not need be on all the same page and completely lacking in any sort of cultural insight.  But Hanna is that rare bird, a movie that thinks the audience is just as smart as the film.  Be thankful audiences, this is an amazing treat.

Hanna (2011)
Directed by Joe Wright.
Screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. I agree with what you said 100%, the movie is such a great film and shows the potential of what action films can be. You forgot to mention the editing alongside the cinematography because I don’t think the movie would be as powerful without both of them working so well together. I also thought the score was perfect. The Chemical Brothers used a lot of the natural sounds of the scene and incorporated it in the score. That makes the music (which is used sparingly) seem to be part of the scene instead of music to play OVER the scene.


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