USA/UK/Germany, 2011: Hanna
A young girl, raised to be a soldier in the Arctic tundra, explores the outside world for the first time, learning about her and her fatherís past along the way.
A multinational collaboration between English director Joe Wright and a combination of American and German production companies, Hanna is a frenetic thrill ride through numerous locales, but the focus isnít exactly on the journey. While it could have been just another Bourne Identity clone with a teen heroine, Wright instead leads us on a dizzying game of cat and mouse, a chase that jumps between heart gripping tension and baffling feelings of surrealism. Citing David Lynch as a major influence on his film, Wright has crafted more of an emotional journey than a narrative one, and it works beautifully. With absolutely brilliant sound design and cinematography, we experience the modern world through Hannaís eyes, taking in all the conveniences of cultures and technology for the first time. The Chemical Brothers contribute to an equally powerful soundtrack, keeping the action moving at a breakneck pace with European dance beats. Altogether, the feel of the movie can be a bit unsettling, but it works wonderfully in a weird sort of way if you let it.
While the story is definitely present, and never lets itself be forgotten, itís not exactly the same sort of character driven narrative we expect from Hollywood every month. The strength of Wrightís directing is the excellent cast, and the fantastic performances they all deliver. Young Irish star Saoirse Ronan does an amazing balancing act between childishly naÔve and professionally efficient. The sense of curiosity and wonder transitions seamlessly into smashing the living daylights out of her enemies, and she manages to still hit all the right emotional notes in between. Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett also impress as supporting roles, giving otherwise bland characters amazing depth and believability, even in a world of spies and secret agents. There is a surprising amount of levity in the writing, whether from the hippy British family on vacation or Tom Hollanderís performance as the most terrifying sexually ambiguous German villain in short shorts.
In just about every facet of this eclectic film, Wright finds a way of making it work. From the comedy, the suspense, and especially the action, everything feels real and well done. The fights, choreographed by Jeff Imada of the Bourne series, have that combination of realism and movie magic that pervades spy films these days. There are a couple of scenes that stretch the boundaries of suspension of disbelief, but overall they are arranged and performed well. Hanna proves beyond a doubt that action movies can both entertain and inspire, existing as an artistic experience as well as just a fun one. This is one you wonít want to miss.
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