Possibly the most artistically cool action thriller you'll see all year!
***** out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.
Article first published as Movie Review: Hanna on Blogcritics.
While original ideas are few and far between in Hollywood these days, once in awhile an homage is plenty fine by me. Quentin Tarantino has been doing the genre wonders for years, so why not let someone else put on their game face? And while Joe Wright may not be the first person that comes to mind for traveling in QT’s footprints (“Atonement,” “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Soloist”), Wright assuredly marches in unleashing his own brand of female empowerment with “Hanna.”
Armed with one of the best casts this side of an art house film (Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng), it’s the perfect casting of almost 17-year-old Saoirse Ronan that’s Wright’s true coup de grace. After directing her to her first Oscar nomination back in 2007 in “Atonement,” she proves herself a true force to be reckoned with. While this role may not bring about her second nomination, it will definitely put her in a well deserved limelight. For further proof of just how well a young actress can carry a film, just watch her in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” Stucci was far from the best thing about that production.
One morning, Erik gives Hanna a transponder and tells her that with the flip of a switch it will inform “her” of their location. After Erik takes off to hunt for food he returns home to find the beacon flashing and learns that his little girl has finally grown up. Now “her,” Marissa Wiegler (Blanchet), is put on the case having a close history with Erik from the past and now we find out that he is an MIA government agent who’s been AWOL for 16 years. We also learn that Marissa is who killed Hanna’s mother when she was a baby and is the reason they’ve been in hiding her entire life.
Very quickly, Hanna is captured and taken to a bunker where she’s questioned before informing that she would like to speak to Marissa. A decoy is sent in who Hanna quickly dispatches along with everyone else who gets in her way of escape and finds her way out only to find out that she’s somewhere in the middle of the Moroccan desert. After walking for miles she comes across a family consisting of pseudo-hippy parents, Rachel and Sebastian (Williams and Flemyng), their teenage daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden), and son Miles (Aldo Maland). Meanwhile Sophie and Miles both take up quite a liking for young independent Hanna.
The screenplay manages to bring badassery to all kinds of new levels thanks to Seth Lochhead and David Farr in their screenwriting debuts (and what a debut it is!) But I can’t help but assume that without the artistic finesse that Wright brings whether it’s his stunning cinematography by Alwin H. Kuchler or his tight editing courtesy Paul Tothill or the tremendous score realized by The Chemical Brothers. Everything plays together so cohesively and the pace flies by so fast you’d never realize that this whopping thriller runs 112 minutes. Erik instills a mantra of “adapt or die” within Hanna and it seems to be Wright’s as well when it comes to making the move from stuffy period pieces to high flying action flicks. This is as close to a “Kill Bill: Volume 3” as we’re gonna see until Tarantino finally gets around to serving us another cold dish of revenge.
When I mentioned Tarantino in opening, there’s a reason. Here we have a film with such artistic merit that it feels like an independent art house flick while the mass consumer viewers can have their cake and eat it too. Whether it’s a long single take subway fight ala “Oldboy” or a song that sounds a lot like “Tu Mira” by Lole y Manuel from the “Kill Bill: Volume 2” soundtrack, right down to the story managing to brilliantly end coming full circle, there’s something for everybody here, it’s just a matter of telling whether anyone will see it. Hopefully this doesn’t wind up suffering from the “Scott Pilgrim” effect - being the film critics adored that won’t find an audience until it hits home video.
While this weekend features another high tale of an epic journey (“Your Highness”), here’s one that you’d first expect to show up at your local art house and not playing in the theater next door. But hopefully the film finds its audience as it more than deserves to turn into the sleeper hit of the spring. Although so does another little film that’s already headed that way right now (“Insidious”). So alas, take a chance on “Hanna” and you’ll be far from sorely mistaken.
Photos courtesy Focus Features