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Theatrical Review: Hanna

ByDarren Goodhart

Apr 10, 2011

Hanna is a 16-year old girl who lives with her father in the wilderness.  They’re totally cut off from everything, including not having electricity for their home.  That’s fine by Hanna’s father, a former secret agent named Erik Heller who’s purposely keeping Hanna from the rest of the world.  But one day, he knows that his girl will want to see the world around her, and because of that, he relentlessly trains her to be most deadly with both weapons and hand-to-hand combat.  The day has come, and Hanna wants to leave, but in order for her to truthfully go and deal with the world around her, she’ll first have to deal with the very thing that her father has been training her for, a ruthless CIA agent named Marissa Weigler.

Hanna is the latest movie from director Joe Wright, who has previously made movies like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, neither of which I’ve seen, though after seeing Hanna I should probably re-consider that, even though I know they’re not along the same lines as Hanna, which at it’s core is an action film, and those aren’t.  That’s basically telling you that I enjoyed Hanna quite a bit.

As this starts, I sort’ve get the feeling that I’m seeing what I’d first expect to be what you might get if Lars von Trier made Batman, but as it progresses, it feels more along the lines of a deeper action film from director Luc Besson by way of the The Brothers Grimm.  Now The Brothers Grimm are very much an influence on this film, in both subtle and not so subtle ways.  I don’t necessarily know if Besson and von Trier are influences on Joe Wright, but as far as I’m concerned, if I’m using them to compare, I’m paying a huge compliment to Wright.

Hanna is terrifically shot and features some really nicely done set pieces.  It’s all punctuated by a first rate techno music score from The Chemical Brothers which really adds a little something extra to the whole thing.

That wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have a strong story and well-drawn characters to carry the whole thing, and fortunately Hanna has both.  Writers Seth Lockhead and David Farr pack quite a bit into this, not just giving us a strong action film but also a good coming-of-age story.  While there’s certainly elements of this that are things that we’ve seen done before, the way it’s all mixed together feels surprisingly fresh.

Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna and while I know she’s been in other movies (Atonement and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones) this is my first big exposure to her.  She’s certainly a talent to watch and I know that upcoming she’ll be in The Hobbit.  Her Hanna is both resourceful and innocent, and her presence is quite remarkable.  Eric Bana plays her father Erik Heller, and Bana does a real nice job here with some great intensity and really gets to shine in a couple of key action set pieces.  Cate Blanchett plays Marissa and I think she’s just wonderful in this, obviously having a great time playing a villain.  Tom Hollander plays an outside operative, Isaacs, hired by Marissa to take care of Hanna, and like Blanchett, you can tell he’s having a great time with this part.

In addition, Jessica Barden, Peter Flemyng and Olivia Williams play members of a British family who Hanna comes across in her travels.  They expose her to a life that she really can’t have and really shine later in the film after Marissa has come into contact with them.

Hanna is really solid entertainment.  Though there are familiar elements, it’s all put together in a way that feels surprisingly fresh, to me, largely due to it’s use of The Brothers Grimm and a terrific score from The Chemical Brothers.  Cate Blanchett really shines in a terrific villainess part and Saorise Ronan is definitely a star in the making.  Don’t miss this one.

Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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