Thursday, April 14, 2011

Immature Fun: Hanna

Hanna
directed by 
Joe Wright;
starring 
Saoirse Ronan, 
Eric Bana, and
Cate Blanchett


The film starts with Hanna stalking an elk in the snow and shooting it with an arrow. While she guts it, we hear a man's voice say, "You're dead. I've killed you." The next hour and forty-five minutes are taken up with chase scenes, fight scenes, and flash-backs with the emphasis on the flash. We learn that the man, Erik, is by way of being Hanna's father, that he has brought her up in an arctic wasteland to be a sort of teen Terminator, with all the skills of a ninja and the empathy of, well, a Terminator. We follow her through the seamy underside of Morocco and western Europe, chased by cartoon cut-outs of evil American (naturally) government agents and their sleazy minions.

Some of those cartoon cut-outs might have been interesting, had they been given any chance to develop themselves on screen: Marissa, lightly played by Cate Blanchett slipping in and out of a Southern accent; Isaacs, intensely played by Tom Hollander channeling Elton John and Amon Göth; and Erik himself, played by Eric Bana, who gets just enough screen time to be The Good Guy, but not enough to make us care.  We also meet Sebastian (Jason Flemyng) and Rachel (Olivia Williams), ditzy post-modern hippies who go some way toward justifying forced sterilization; and their daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden), who is still young enough not to have yet proven her unworthiness to live. Not that it matters: she falls into Marissa's hands, and Marissa kills just everybody she meets.

As an action-adventure film, Hanna gets a top grade. It's all action, and stays far enough this side of science-fiction to keep our eyes from rolling. The adventure is sort of two-dimensional, largely because none of the characters get developed, not even Hanna (Saoirse Ronan). The script doesn't get bogged down in explaining how a slight teenaged girl could have the strength of Schwarzenegger and Mr Data combined. But it's put out on the screen artfully enough that the question is an idle, passing wonder instead of the obstacle it might have been in the hands of a less relentless director. It doesn't distract.

The sad thing is, I guess, that you just know that a lot of fascinating development of Marissa, Isaacs and Eric got cut, partly because it came down to a choice between characters and action, and partly (in the case of Isaacs) to preserve a PG-13 rating (which apparently stands for "Pretty Gruesome"). Isaacs could get an NC-17 on his own. As a result, we are left with a fully enjoyable movie and an immature, formulaic script, beautifully filmed from bookend-beginning to bookend-finish.

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