Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Review: Hanna

Joe Wright did something with this one--he separated it from the garbage it could have been in the hands of a. . . less capable director.

The Wolf In Sheep's Clothing tries to bait the young and impressionable

Fairy tale? Fairytaledom is where is this is inspired from; but in the end isn't exactly a thriller/chaser. And we also get some unexpected but well-placed magic injected into it's veins, causing a nice and steady flow of wonderment through the blood stream. It is also a coming-of-age story as well. A coming-of-age tale. . .

Hanna Heller, 16 Finnish years of age and appropriately named for the Hounds of Hell she can summon to rain down upon a most unfortunate soul who thinks they can grab her best and run--they will quickly find that they will quickly fail. If Batman had a threesome with Jason Bourne and Tommy Lee Jones from The Hunted then I believe the end result would be Hanna. Trained by her ex-CIA contract agent Finnish father Erik Heller from younger years, she is a machine of death, a walking gun that possesses no safety.

In an ice and snow covered land, just out passed a forest that looks as if it was pulled from the frames of Bambi's meadow scenes (maybe on purpose), we see Hanna gutting a deer, then getting snuck up on by her father, he declares her death, "You're dead." This is merely a training exercise, and she engages in a brutal hands, knees, feet and body-to-body fight with him.

In isolation her father does as one of his associates later tells Hanna, "Truely limited you from all the wonderful things the world has to offer."

She knows no music, no cell phone, no Facebook (probably for the best) no TV channels or shows (Including Jersey Shore), no hair straighter apparently and no mod-cons of any kind (modern conveniences). She also knows no family normality or day-to-day's as well. Finding herself in Moroccan technology--if you can even apply that word in regards to that part of Morocco--the ceiling fan, the automatic tea brewer, the lights and the humming of electronics causes her a mild anxiety attack and she flees to the safety of the outside world with bugs and trees and wind and fresh air. Ronan shows us this wonderfully and we all pray she never accidentally wanders into a Sharper Image store--or much less a mall period. 

This isolation robs her of any real social skills or personality, she knows her discipline and her instincts, her cunning mind and capable body. She knows the woods, the leaves, the smell of things, how to kill, skin and then cook. How to kill, oh, does she know how to kill. And she also knows the Brother's Grimm and their wonderful stories from an old picture book, it appears as if it was the original copy.

In a conversation with a British family she meets that unintentionally educate her in family dynamics she displays what little conversational delicacies she has:
Mother: "What did your mom die of?"
      Hanna:  "Three bullets."

She knows nothing but the woods, danger, blood, bullets, arrows, thick wool and fur--and the yearning for more. She knows she wants it, but doesn't know what it is. One day her father gives it to her, per her begging and claims that she is ready. He digs up what looks like a car battery with a switch and places it in front of her, telling her that upon flipping the switch, Marissa Wiegler will stop at nothing to get them both, and so he must leave. They will reconvene in Germany. She activates the transponder, he leaves her the next day and for the first time in her 16 years on the planet--she is alone with only herself and her skill-set, endowed to her by her loving father.

I was frightened for her as Bana disappeared into the thicket of woods and white and falling snow. Again, I think of Bambi. 

That night per orders of Marissa Weigler played superbly by Cate "The Great" Blanchett Hanna is grabbed and Eric is missed. Marissa plays up the Evil Step-mother syndrome, borrowing the calm, connectedness and slow-boil evil from Lady Tremaine. Blanchett's Weigler has a mild panic trying to free itself into her facial features throughout the film, and throughout the film it begins to win more and more battles to break free and take control. We don't know why or exactly understand her absolute need to destroy Erik Heller and his offspring, but we do understand is evidently imperative to do so for Marissa Weigler to again relax and chill. Ebert said that she show's little humanity but I disagree, Marissa is very much a human being and we see evidence of this in a few different scenes. Like the way she plays out her phone call from Erik, or her reaction to Hanna's spectacular escape. For an extraordinary individual requires and extraordinary escape, do they not?

In the middle of the night in a pounding sequence, a CIA Snatch-n-Grab team drops from a helicopter and with white, ghoulish, snow-masks that give them demonic monstrous appearances, grab Hanna in her wooden house.

The demon ghosts came for the little girl in her little cabin in her little part of the forest--and she was seen no more.

During a most creepy examination from a most creepy man, she manages an escape and flees on foot only to run into a British family traveling in a small RV with love and goofiness to guide them. They have a daughter, maybe two years Hanna's junior, and she loves M.I.A. and all things girly. Her traits and tricks and loves of these aspects of life are of course foreign in nature to our Hanna, she is enshrouded in wonderment and it grows. They become friends as Hanna travels with her, learning things about family and the nature of bonding. She even get's a small experience in boys, that ends with him on the ground in pain of course.

In a beautiful string of words encompassing Hanna's true drive through the film, Sophie asks herself what she really knows about her new friend before they make it official:

Sophie: "I mean I don't really know who you are, do I?"
      Hanna: "That's just it--neither do I."

Nice. Using that as her foundation Ronan gives the magic that most actresses would have missed getting too wrapped up in the details of action, looking cool, or "badass". This is no Hit-Girl, make no mistake. There are things in the character of Hanna that many other actresses fit for this role simply could not even see, much less pull out and display for us, the audience. Ronan is worth every single penny of her paychecks. In a scene where she witnesses a Spanish flamenco dance and music circle, we see the awe and (yes again) wonderment in her eyes, ears and heart. Music, dancing, things new and exciting to the trained killer. We almost think of Kurt Russell in Solider, from birth a warrior bred and raised, now released on their own to a world new and full of life--real life.

Wright and Ronan make a terrific team because they understand each other, what they need to accomplish and the correct way to do it. The wonderful score by The Chemical Brothers is just as fresh and playful as Wright's approach to the film. The three of them bring sadness, brightness, stark morbid darkness and thumping building tension to this, and sometimes, sometimes, that Fairy-tale pinging magical quality of sound that separates this from an attempt at trying, and the achievement of doing.

Wright, Lochhead and Farr construct a Kingdom where an Evil Stepmother/Queen lives and rules over the land, while the banished and frightened father raises his young innocent daughter in the forest with love, caring, and of course--brutal training of the contract assassin variety.

No cheap cop-outs for a big box office bang will be found here. Thank FUCK! Too many indie guys come up for a bigger project out of the depths of art-house and get blinded by the big lights, causing their creative integrity to be over taken by the dollars, and then the film turns into a movie, nine times out of ten a bad movie too.

Wright side-stepped that pitfall and lept to the other side of greatness with ingenious execution and deli-slicer precision for his most unique vision in deed.

And oh boy does the meat taste so sweet.
(That's what she said.)

Munki out.

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