Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: Hanna

Earthbound action films (that is to say action films with no direct sci-fi or fantasy elements) generally have to pick a tone before they can start production. Do they want to go over the top and silly like Machete? Do they want to go action packed and unrealistic like Die Hard? Or do they want to keep it down to earth and realistic like the Bourne movies? Hanna as a whole has it's eyes set on the 3rd category, which is a trade off. It's the hardest of the 3 to nail down right, but if you do right, you end up much better than you might otherwise.

The film is devoted to a girl named Hanna (duh) living in the woods with her father, who is constantly training her in combat, languages, lying and general encyclopedic knowledge. Hanna insists that she's ready to leave and activates a machine that will allow the CIA to find and capture her. No prizes for guessing that her father knows more about her than he lets on, that she's not entirely normal or that she, y'know, escapes. The film is primarily devoted to her journey from her holding cell to Berlin to meet her father.

So it's an action film devoted to an abnormally powerful character traipsing across Europe. If your mind instantly went to the Bourne movies, the advertisers have done their jobs. But to look at what makes it good, you have to look in the details.

The script is a solid piece of work, the characters are original and well balanced, not prize winning but good. The cinematography is nice, if a little odd in spots (I smell a bored director), and thankfully free of the shaky-cam bullshit that plagued the later Bourne films (the Bourne films will be coming up a lot in this review, sorry). The stunt work is good and...what I don't normally talk about the stunt work? Well sir, I can't talk about the CGI because there isn't any, and most of the gore is offscreen so I can't talk about that so...yeah. It also wisely takes time to slow down and show what mental effects Hanna's upbringing might have on her long term psyche.

The actors are all doing good jobs especially Cate Blanchett and Eric Banna. What I like about it is that style and technique draw attention to the thin line separating Hanna's actions from the villains and more importantly, the non-existent line between the father's and the villains. Hanna often acts like a sociopath, but if she's a sociopath then her father is a full on psycho. The villains are all believable and frightening (and I know a single audio detail from one villain will be haunting more than a few people's nightmares).

The actions scenes are clean and exciting, never breaking the believability that makes it intense. The soundtrack is easily one of the years best, a first from a band I've never heard of (The Chemical Brothers if you know them), resonating perfectly with the action scenes and the quiet scenes alike.

The film has more than a few problems which keep it from unseating Source Code as the best movie I've seen all year. First off, while the characters are all nicely rounded, with the exception of Hanna, everyone's motivation is a little too broad for comfort. The ending comes out of nowhere and resolves nothing, perhaps trying to leave room for a sequel, perhaps not. A lot of times things seem to travel as quickly as the plot needs them to. And I'm sorry, but I think we all know at this point that In the Hall of the Mountain King only has one use in the genre.

Look, problems aside, Hanna is a damned good action film, probably the best one to open wide since Machete last year. It's not perfect, but it's well made and enjoyable and unless you've yet to see Source Code (I know there are a few of you) I'd recommend you see this. See you next time.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and in his time honored tradition of nicknaming movies, he's changing this one's title to The Bourne Childhood.

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