Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shoot to Thrill: A review of Hanna

“I just missed your heart,” says the title character, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), in symmetrical shots that open and close the film. It’s a concise, somewhat heavy-handed, indication of filmmaker Joe Wright’s intentions with this lyrical, violent, beautifully photographed thriller. Wright wants us to be emotionally invested but in the end, able to walk away without too much attachment lest we be turned off by all the gruesome bloodletting and the psychological ramifications of the characters’ actions.

“The Devil is in the details,” states a different character around the film’s midpoint. Hanna is crammed with details. Some of which are arbitrary – Tom Hollander’s bottle-blond, short short sporting, whistlin’ killer is a hoot to watch, but his quirks ultimately don’t add up to much. More effectively drawn are Sophie (Jessica Barden), the tabloid-obsessed teenage tourist who befriends Hanna in Morocco and Cate Blanchett’s Clarise Starling-esque villainess whose ruthless, tactical precision is visualized in her dental care and whose pig-headed determination is expressed through her vanity and footwear. Without this level of specificity, Hanna would be just a Bourne knockoff (the cinematic impact of that spy trilogy continues to engulf the action genre) but instead, it is a thriller with a personality and an artistic sensibility.

I’ve made it no secret that Joe Wright is one of my favorite directors working today due to his cinematic eye and his drive to make mainstream cinema both entertaining and thought-provoking. He directs Hanna with a mixture of hyperactive cutting and calm restraint, lingering on vistas and background characters, as well as a steadicam shot that rivals the complexity of the Dunkirk scene in Atonement.

The tone here is a change of pace from Wright’s three previous films (literary adaptations Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist), but his adeptness at the thriller genre furthers his credit as one of cinema’s more versatile craftsmen. There are a lot of chase scenes in Hanna, all of which are scored to the pulse-pounding beats of The Chemical Brothers’ new music which keeps the movie zipping along enough to entertain the Saturday evening audience. The film is also very violent, too violent for the PG-13 rating it received and should be withheld from younger teens as its stylized brutality is issued without ample ethical consideration. But for those who can handle it, Hanna is an exciting, peculiar thriller that will impress you viscerally and also exercise your analytical skills, if not win your heart.

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