The Good: Interesting idea, Decent acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Pacing irregularities, Telegraphing soundtrack, Somewhat predictable.
The Basics: Hanna is a graphic, intriguing chase movie that is a little too predictable to be truly thrilling.
Hanna is one of those movies that came out earlier in the year that I missed, but did not actually feel like I missed. While the idea of it intrigued me, I did not feel like I missed it because the previews were so utterly revealing. With it out now on DVD, though, I felt like it was time to sit and watch it. Hanna seems to have a pretty simple and direct premise and my thought was that the way it could impress me would be to actually develop the characters so it was not just another chase film that was cut with the best parts in the trailer.
Hanna does have a bit more depth than I suspected, but it was pretty much what I expected. Despite the meeting Hanna has with the free and loose family and the reckless moments she shares with boys in Spain, the movie is pretty much a chase with narrowing focus. When it isn't a fast-paced chase across Europe, Hanna is a surprisingly slow character story that focuses on Hanna being amazed by the commonplace elements she has only heard of in stories.
Hanna is raised in seclusion by Erik, taught to hunt, shoot, fight and survive under any circumstances. Amazed by such things as airplanes, Hanna has been trained to be an incredible soldier in seclusion. Feeling she is ready to face a woman who is supposed to want to kill her, she activates a homing beacon Erik provides her with and allows herself to be "rescued" by the CIA. As a former intelligence operative, Erik is sought by Marissa, though she quickly suspects Hanna is more than meets the eye. This is confirmed when Hanna requests a meeting with Marissa and the decoy who is sent in is killed by the girl.
From that point on, Hanna is on the run through the desert regions of Morocco. Marissa recalls how she, not Erik, killed Hanna's mother and set into motion the hunt that seems to suggest that she is part of an experiment. Hanna meets up with Sophie and her family while on the run as Marissa hires locals to find the girl. As they cut a swath of violence into Spain and across Europe, Erik moves in for a rendezvous in Germany. Hanna tries to normalize with Sophie and understand the test results she found in the CIA facility in Morocco as Marissa and Erik move toward a final showdown.
Director Joe Wright telegraphs Hanna with the soundtrack, eliminating any real surprise or mystery to what comes next in any given scene. For example, Erik will be walking along, clearly followed, but as he moves on, the soundtrack becomes an action theme in advance of the physical fight that comes. That guts the suspense quite a bit and leaves the viewer feeling like they are part of an emotional experiment as opposed to watching something truly engaging.
That said, much of Hanna actually is engaging. The film is extraordinarily well-acted, for example, despite having a very small cast. Eric Bana plays Erik and once again, the actor illustrates that he can provide a lot of depth for a character who is written fairly monolithically. Like his character in Star Trek (reviewed here!), Bana adds personality to Erik with faint smiles and occasionally ironic line deliveries.
Cate Blanchett is the first big surprise as Marissa. Blanchett as Marissa is far from the demur, whispy character she usually plays. Instead of playing the usual quiet, good character with a soft British accent, she plays a Texan CIA agent and her accent is flawless. She is cold, calculating and utterly ruthless as Marissa and the role is unlike any she has ever had. She nails it, though, presenting the menace of a spy in a way that makes her intriguing to watch and magnetic, regardless of how monolithic her character might be.
Much of the film, however, rests on the performance of Saoirse Ronan, who had bored me in ever role I had seen her in before now. But in Hanna she manages to be cold, distant and reserved without being boring or seeming like she couldn't act. Instead, she portrays dispassionate and well-trained to a "t," overcoming the apparent limitations of her age. In addition to playing brutal, Ronan is able to embody wonder in her eyes and facial expressions perfectly, which sells well scenes like her witnessing the washer women in the desert.
Ultimately, what slowly robs the film of higher consideration is the pacing and the lack of ability to empathize with the characters. Early on in the movie, it comes out that Hanna was a part of an experiment, though the nature of the experiment is not revealed until late in the picture. Her desire for freedom and self-determination is a decent quest, but ultimately, whether she kills Marissa, Marissa kills her or if either ends up with Erik does not matter to the viewer. The characters just fail to resonate enough to truly become invested in, especially when several of the characters abruptly fall out of the film.
Now on DVD, Hanna comes with an alternate ending, deleted scenes and a featurette on the making of one of the film's scenes. The bonus features are decent, but typical. The commentary track is mildly interesting, but does not solve the problems with the movie. Ultimately, Hanna is worth watching, but I can't see watching it more than the one time.
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© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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