Sunday, 24 July 2011


Hanna [Review]

Opinion: B+

Instill an overwhelming sense of stylish element within a film that feels like a mysterious piece of European cinema, you'd get one of the best action films this year in the form of Joe Wright's Hanna. Realistic action choreography hits well with the soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers and notably, the effective cast performance by Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett.

The title character of this adventure thriller, filmed in Europe, Hanna (played by Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan "Atonement") is a teenage girl. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a soldier; these come from being raised by her father (Eric Bana of "Star Trek"), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Living a life unlike any other teenager, her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.

For unknown reasons, Hanna feels very much like a European film with influence from contemporary German films that I cannot seem to identity at once. Quite possibly it might just be the cinematography, colour grading or the European location sets, it also subtly reminds me of a dynamic version of The American.

Hanna is a mystery action thriller that keeps one engaged. It is very much like a jigsaw puzzle that releases clues piece by piece to keep you in anticipation of what comes next. With a somewhat brooding premise, it does instill an overwhelming sense of mystery that requires us to mentally piece it up one by one throughout the span of 110 minutes.

One of my favourite scenes in the opening chapter is that of Hanna reciting her falsified bio details from memory that is being interestingly edited into a rhythmic montage of her training footage with Hanna performing the recital as a voice-over.

The film's hyperactive stylish editing by Paul Tothill and raw action (much like a Bourne film, but with more elegance and control in its camerawork) have allowed Hanna to stand out in the recent saturation of weary action thrillers. The influential Electronica original music by The Chemical Brothers engages our senses blatantly in style and synergy for every scored scene, further enhancing its storytelling capabilities when many others merely make use of conventional tracks that doesn't seem to fit with what's on the silver screen.

When done right, music's a capable device of expression. It's not always the visuals for the credit.

Cinematography by Alwin H. Kuchler allows the film to feel alive and engages the audience fairly well. I especially liked a tracking scene of Eric Bana's character being followed in the subway station, which was seemingly shot in a single take unless Tothill's brilliant editing has fooled my eyes. The camerawork was fluid as the lens tracked Bana elegantly as he enters the underground subway from the streets and subsequently walks into the underground walkway.

It blows my mind to think about the amount of effort expensed into making the tracking shot possible, especially when there's a great deal of fighting going on. Speaking of which, the dynamic sense of this film (felt through a lot of superb moving camerawork that seems to be aiming for the end product with a lesser reliance on editing) somewhat hints that Wright is finally able to liberate himself from serious period projects and have fun.

I have to say that Hanna is very much a film that deserves appreciation for its technical excellence and credible performances by its impressive cast. The story is considered a supporting character in comparison, although the screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr works. In particularly satisfying is Hanna's journey of self-discovery where she experiments and struggles between trained logic and unpredictable worldly affairs.

Physically, Hanna may be prepared to kill. But emotionally, she is not prepared for worldly affairs.

While limited by the writing, Blanchett adds a shuddering inhuman vile to her villain role who looks and feels like a mannequin with her ridiculously pristine set of pearly teeth, porcelain skin, and a dyed bob that you'd find on most store mannequins these days. Her appearance and demeanour makes her one of the most terrifying person for anybody to stand next to.

Also notable is the depiction of the homosexual psychotic henchman by Tom Hollander adds quirkiness and perverse into a film driven by both character extremes. Like a good audio track, Hollander's whistling fills the void in the mid while Ronan and Blanchett dominates the hi and low ends to allow the film to feel more complete, although it can be considered a stereotypical character.

We see the young teenage girl here played coldly by a competent Ronan (think Hit-Girl from "Kick-Ass" albeit more matured and composed), who surprised us the very instance she did her war cry in the film's opening scene. I must admit that it was something that I wasn't prepared for, just like how Hanna can never be prepared enough for growing up. Her father says to her, "Remember what I've taught you and you'll be fine". This is hardly adequate and makes it impossible for one to live by merely upon a strict father's teachings.

Nobody can, which is what Joe Wright intends to relay to his audience.

Life's unpredictable, unlike fairy tales whose ends are always a happy one.

Hanna is the exact opposite of her character Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. This prominently allows her to boast flexibility in her capabilities of playing a range of roles in a stunning amount of confidence for her age. From accented dialogues to fronting action sequences, she's very much a bright star to watch for and it intrigues me to see her choice of films after Hanna.

The conclusive scene of Hanna brings a lot of meaning and closure to both the film and Hanna's character. While trying not to reveal much to prevent spoilers, I personally thought that the hunter-deer (predator-prey) reference makes for a powerful ending that immediately floods one with thoughts that resonates after-thoughts.

Should we view Hanna as an empathetic heroine or an unchanged emotion-void killing product?

Much like her repeated phrase in the beginning of the film, desperate to convince her father that she is prepared for whatever comes next in the bitter world, Ronan is indeed also trying to tell the whole world of her future in the film industry.

"Adapt, or die. I'm ready".


  1. One of my favorite movies of 2011 so far. Uncompromising, yet smart and sophisticated, "Hanna" was the artsy action flick I was willing to see so much. Great review!

  2. Thank you so much! Sometimes I do wonder if I should have rounded Hanna to an A-. It does impress beyond what it seems to offer, although I do know of people who didn't find this good.

    Hearing your opinion as a action film buff assures that it's surely one of the best action films this year! :)

  3. I'm surprised that u gave it B+

    It deserves at least A-...
    Like u said, it's one of the best action movies this year...

  4. Hi Zulfahmi!

    Yes, I'm readily in favour of A- as you've suggested. In my opinion, it feels in between a B+ and A- due to certain plot issues but I've decided to round this to a B+ in the end.

    Of course A- isn't too much for this either, I totally agree with you. In fact I'm actually boldly rooting this to receive some nods later during the Award season!

    Thanks for sharing your opinion Zulfahmi, so glad to hear another who likes Hanna and feels the same way as I did! :)

  5. Hanna was quite a good film! :D

    Yeap, the action scenes go very well with the movie scores.. (:

    Check out my review too, thanks. :]


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