Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'Hanna' is among its genre's best

Cold, brutal, wickedly intelligent and a whole lot of fun, Hanna takes the rogue-CIA-asset subgenre and revitalizes it with creativity at every turn.
Hanna, played by 17-year-old Saoirse Ronan, appears to have spent almost her entire life in the forest under the tutelage of her father Erik. Knowing his daughter would need to defend herself against Marissa, a ruthless CIA agent played by Cate Blanchett, Erik taught her how to fight with various weapons and her hands. When she uses her hand-to-hand combat skills, she unleashes a torrent of hurt which would intimidate Daniel Craig’s James Bond. Ronan, whose breakthrough Oscar-nominated role in Wright’s 2007 film Atonement, is perfect in the role. She has a pixie-nymph look to her face and with her pale skin and bright, blue eyes, she looks as if she actually could be a child raised in the wilderness. Just as the character Hanna, raised and trained by her ex-CIA father, possesses an arsenal of finely tuned and expertly executed skills, the film Hanna is a showcase of tremendous filmmaking talent.

Director Joe Wright and editor Paul Tothill brilliantly blend their techniques to create nail-biting sequences out of what could easily have been rote, yawn-inducing chases. In a rousing sequence Hanna escapes from a top-secret government facility and runs through a large, round tunnel. The camera focuses on her face as she runs, circling within the tunnel, adding urgency to her getaway and providing visual flair for the audience. As it does for other action scenes in the film, the music by The Chemical Brothers adds further excitement.

Here is a portion of this sequence:

One of the wisest decisions of the filmmakers made is to let the audience discover the locations as the characters travel. When Hanna escapes from the facility, rather than have her emerge into a bustling city with the Washington Monument, smacking viewers in the face with the realization she’s in Washington, D.C., she emerges in an area with no obvious landmarks. It isn’t for some time afterward until her location is divulged. By doing this, the viewer is given a similar sense of confusion as Hanna, who is finding herself in strange places. The viewers fortunately don’t have Blanchett’s icy CIA agent on their heels.

As Hanna evades capture she uses her combat techniques and when she kills it’s with the speed and ruthlessness of an animal in a flight or flight situation. She doesn't kill for the sake of it and avoids harming some people she easily could dispatch, but when necessary there is no hesitation or remorse. Adapt or die is the mantra her father instilled in her and she is obviously a very good student.
I have so much praise and gratitude for this movie and the talented cast and crew who made it possible. As most of us cinephiles know, the past two years were among the most egregious on record. The dearth of imagination, risk-taking and excitement in movies has been sapping the most ardent movie buffs of their enthusiasm for the medium. Even someone like me has stopped looking at the movie section in Friday's paper because it's almost a guarantee nothing interesting will be playing. Hanna is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time and it reminds me of why I love movies.

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