Apr 19, 2011

A Look at "Hanna" (2011)


The one thing I enjoy about my new series called "I Guess..." is that they can be blatantly wrong sometimes. Where I felt I am spot on with Sucker Punch, my opinions of Hanna as a jumbled affair with too much emotion and misdirected action was for the most part wrong. However, I am proud that my expectations for both the use of soundtrack and Saoirse Ronan were still accurate. Maybe even my box office predictions were wrong, which would be a sigh of relief.

I do not understand what my interest in female angst movies are, whether it be Thirteen or Charlie Bartlett (that one's easy... Kat Dennings!), but it's intriguing to watch cinema with my perception of complex women who can handle their emotions in creative and interesting ways. I've always been more fascinated with characters instead of plot, so even if you give me an asinine plot, if you give me someone to root for, the more the merrier.
What does this have to do with Hanna? Surprisingly, very little. I felt the story was very well structured, even though I didn't care for the twist ending, which I felt kind of made the entire plot kind of asinine in a way.

Does it detract from the rest of the movie?
Not at all.
From the opening where Hanna (Ronan) is hunting deer in the forest before getting into a fight with her father Erik (Eric Bana), I was already obsessed with the character. She was WAY younger than me and could knock out a deer and insult me in six languages. Immediately I wondered the normal factoids: 1. Who is she and 2. Why are they living in the woods?

These two questions carry most of the movie very well, especially when Erik leaves Hanna to attack C.I.A. agent and consistent accent adjuster Marissa (Cate Blanchett) from the inside. While killing a prototype posing as Marissa, she somehow manages to take out cameras, armed guards, and escape in a way that makes John Dillinger seem like a pussy.
True, you can wonder how she knew about cameras and to escape so effortlessly, but the thing that I'd rather ask is why director Joe Wright has just now shown us that he can kick ass at filming action sequences that are intense and fun. I really expected the director of Atonement to not understand. Instead, he's filming grandiose shots with Dutch angles and other awesome camera trickery.
The rest of the movie is pretty much a cat and mouse hunt between Marissa and Hanna on their way to Berlin to meet Erik. While the action dies down for 40% of what's to come, Wright puts his emotional skills into play as Hanna gets culturalized with Sophie (Jessica Barden) and her family as Hanna slowly realizes the joy of music and living a normal life, even it involves head locking guys who want to kiss her.

There's an epic waterfront chase scene, plenty of interrogation, a subway fight between agents and Erik, and even a great showdown in a theme park. While this is done superbly by Wright's skills, another name should be thanked. The Chemical Brothers.
Let's be honest, if Trent Reznor could win an Oscar for creating a soundtrack from what sounded like the snooze button, then this has to be considered. You can argue why Daft Punk's Inception-at-a-gay bar job for TRON: Legacy was ignored, but it's nowhere near as good as this. I think this surpasses recent work and should go next to the Dust Brother's Fight Club work for the intense, unique energy that helps take the movie to the next level. I'd hate to imagine how the waterfront chase would have played to a slightly different score.
The impact would be lost because the Chemical Brothers have always given their songs personality. What essentially works here is that the music fits the overall genre bending aspects of the story. True, it's an action flick, but it's also a character study and a subtle satire on the Grimm's Fairytales. The main song, "The Devil is in the Beats" is orchestrated in such a way that you hear the gleeful, childish fun of fairytales mixed with dark elements. Not all of the tracks are as balanced, but it's more to fit the scene. However, the song did spawn a whistle that sounds like an updated version of "Heigh Ho" from Snow White.
If you don't get anything out of the story, I will feel disappointed if you don't like the music.

Of course, the main star of this movie is Saoirse Ronan, who manages to make the most of her tiny frame and precocious character and turn her into a mix of violent innocence and human desperate for companionship. She carries this movie and can make even a skinned deer seem like a good set up for a joke when need be.
I cannot figure out why I support the people I do, but I definitely think my membership should be upgraded for Saoirse Ronan after seeing this. It does have flaws, but very few belong to Ronan, or even Wright for that matter. It's mostly in writers Seth Lochlead and David Farr's court. They create a brilliant premise and manage to make the movie work... and then, the ending.

SPOILERS

I'm not going to lie, I love the very end of the movie where the metaphorical deer killing comes full circle from the opening scene. I have a soft spot if you can do that right. I even enjoy that Marissa gets her dues on a railroad track at a theme park (though the event leading to that seemed a little thrown in).
What kind of bothers me is that through all of this investigation, it is discovered that Hanna is an experiment from the CIA. She was a mix of an aborted fetus and some dog DNA in hopes to create the ultimate soldier. For the most part, she is the ultimate soldier in that not even her maker, Marissa can seem to track her down.
I am confused on if Erik was a clone to. His last words were "Kids grow up," which gives me the impression that in context of the scene, he was also a super soldier. It also makes sense when you calculate that he was able to fight similarly to Hanna. However, I am confused if this all means that Erik and Hanna are clones of Marissa and Hanna just killed her mother (not her supposed mother, Johann, played by Vicky Krieps).
But, I feel that idea is too radical and may just be too ridiculous to be exact. However, I am not entirely annoyed with the ending as the set up worked very well for that result. The final ten minutes may be jumbled a little, but I cannot argue with my glee from that theme park chase scene.

Also, I am impressed with how Wright handled the PG-13 gore. Sure, it was dark and they could have avoided showing scenes entirely like Sucker Punch did, but they managed to show stuff in a way where the gore was more mental than visual.
All I am saying is... why isn't Wright doing more action movies? I am totally fine if he makes drama period pieces, too... but this one surprised me a lot. I was not expecting to be blown away by the action, which I was. He used it effectively. In fact, let's just give Wright an advancement for choosing the Chemical Brothers.

True, I liked a lot of this movie, even with a jumbled ending, but so far this year, my expectations have mostly been in the worse category. Paul was funny, but too juvenile. Sucker Punch was shit. The only one so far to exceed it is Super. Hanna joins the ranks as being one that met my expectations, though may not have exceeded them.
However, I recommend supporting Saoirse Ronan and Joe Wright on their next projects, because I feel whether together or apart, they both show strong promise in the future.

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