Hanna - movie review
If Hanna is any indication, thank god, he has not only escaped the machine, but ensured he will never return.
This strange and beautiful thriller is imperfect - there are some clumsy moments of exposition that smack strongly of studio interference - but in spite of that, Hanna is still one of the most exciting films of the last few years.
In a nondescript snowy area in the Arctic Circle, a young girl hunts a moose. This is Hanna (Saoirse Ronan); troubled by her arrow's shaky aim, she confronts the dying animal: "I just missed your heart". She shoots it in the head instead. While she is studiously removing its guts, her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) attacks her from behind.
This is because Heller has been training Hanna, since birth, to become a lethal assassin: once they turn on the transponder hidden in their snow-covered hut, the mysterious Marissa Wiegler will come and find her. "I'm ready", Hanna insists.
Who? What? Why??
It's a bracing beginning: you are dropped into the narrative deep-end with no flotation devices, and those with MTV-generation attention spans are likely to flounder.
Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) reacts quickly. It turns out Heller is a "rogue asset" who deserted the CIA years ago after escaping a secret program that has something to do with Hanna. Unfortunately, by the time her men reach the hut, Heller is gone; after dispatching two soldiers with her bare hands, Hanna is brought in for questioning.
The carnage continues, giving Wiegler a better idea of what she's dealing with, and Hanna escapes in one of the most thrilling chase sequences in recent memory, charging through labyrinthine tunnels in the CIA holding facility to the tune of the Chemical Brothers' propulsive score.
Popping out of a hole in the ground, she appears to have emerged on Mars. It turns out to to be Morocco, where Hanna hitches a ride with a charming hippie family (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) whose daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) has inexplicably turned out to be a chav.
With intel that Hanna is heading to Germany to reunite with Heller, Wiegler sets the psychotic Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his goons on her tail.
Wright is a natural successor to the late Anthony Minghella, able to deftly mix visual panache with small-scale emotion. The core of Hanna isn't particularly inventive - CIA agents, genetic engineering, scary men with guns - but the way that Wright and his team have constructed this bloodthirsty action fairytale is striking.
Visually, it's stunning - from snow-covered forests to the desert expanses of Morocco to an abandoned fairytale theme park, cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler creates a visual language for the film that is otherworldly and exciting. Some of the locations are so remarkable it's hard to believe they are real; Hanna has a feverish, dreamlike quality that has more in common with science fiction and fantasy than the workmanlike tropes of most thriller flicks.
The Chemical Brothers' score, like Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor's The Social Network effort, is brilliant; from spooky music-box themes to surging big-beat electronica (and even a bit of whale song), it adds to the woozy urgency of the film.
Ronan is wonderful as the otherworldly Hanna; she recites encyclopedic - literally, as Heller reads the encyclopedia to her like a bedtime story - knowledge about the world and can snap a person's neck but has no idea how people work. Her scenes with Sophie, tenderly exploring friendship for the first time in her life, are lovely.
Hollander - who you might remember as the unctuous, mole-like Mr Collins in Wright's Pride & Prejudice - is brilliant as the Eurotrash psychopath Isaacs; with his pair of sunflower-seed-chewing skinhead offsiders, he's an enduring screen villain. Blanchett turns everything up to 11 as Wiegler, the wicked witch in emerald green Prada pumps, over-acting with glee after a decade of restraint. Bana is stoic as Heller.
A heady mix of Grimm's fairy tales (and, like Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood, a healthy dose of Freud and Bettelheim's psychoanalytic reading of them), Hitchcock and rave, Hanna is one of the year's strangest and most bewitching films - and proof that Wright is one of the best directors working today.
- four stars
Hanna is in limited release nationally.
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