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Apr 12, 2011

Fletch's Film Review: Hanna

Hanna grew up in a snowy, Finnish forest, separated from not only the conveniences of society, but from society altogether. She's like Hudson Hawk, released from jail and unaware of things like cellphones and PlayStations, only she's not a cat burglar and doesn't sing swinging big-band tunes. She's released from the wild with a mind full of encyclopedic knowledge yet zero first-hand application of said knowledge, a kid not in some mall candy store, but a worldwide store filled with candy...and bear traps and black holes and ammunition. She's entranced yet apprehensive; overwhelmed yet bewildered - an alien sent to Earth with loads of research behind her and a mission, but a twinkle in her eye and the curiosity of a child. In other words, she's Leeloo, minus the part where she's an element capable of saving and/or destroying worlds.

With all this in front of her, Hanna doesn't quite know how to handle herself at times. So many shiny new things, so many experiences to absorb. So many choices with so much at stake.

I might not have all that much on the line, but I feel a bit like Hanna, at least as it pertains to reviewing her film.

Sometimes, it's easy to put a finger on what you find appealing about a film. To apply a simple-to-understand label or turn-of-phrase that the whole world will comprehend with no further explanation necessary. A virtuoso performance by Daniel Day-Lewis! Brilliant pretzel logic. Creative non-linear structure. Whip-smart and/or snappy dialogue. Layers of meaning ripe for analysis.

Hanna has none of those things. Especially not Daniel Day-Lewis.

But it has that...zip...that spark...that certain je ne sais quois that I only wish I could put into words. It is a mirror of its central character - bad ass, brilliant, beautiful, naive, and capable of speaking in any number of languages. I don't know if it's the ethereal/industrial Chemical Brother score or the coherent, blunt action or the bohemian multiculturalism encapsulated by the family of Brits that Hanna meets on her travels or the dazzling visual after visual that's flung at the audience, but I'm become smitten with Hanna.

Director Joe Wright has made a film that's ostensibly about nothing - it's a straight-up revenge plot with sci-fi elements and an overall Bourne/espionage cool (every spy film that is released over the next 10 years that jumps around European cities must be compared to the Bourne films, in case you didn't know). Hanna tells us nothing about ourselves, and Hanna learns nothing meaningful about herself; sure, she learns of the circumstances that resulted in her living in a Finnish forest for the bulk of her childhood, but neither she nor any of the other characters really grow as a result of the events that take place in the film.

But, to borrow from the great poet Steven Tyler, life's a journey, not a destination, and you just can't tell just what tomorrow brings. Every second Hanna spends outside of her habitat is a new experience - one that's met with whimsy and magic and danger, and Wright brings that feeling to life palpably.

Fletch's Film Rating:
Expectation:
"Darn tootin."
Reality:
"It's in the hole!"
LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie Blogs


13 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Hanna"

Hokahey said...

Fletch - I agree with you here. The tale of vengeance and pursuit is standard, but the score and Saoirse's performance are captivating. Also, Hanna is a compelling character as she is unleashed upon the world as an assassin and yet at the same time she struggles with electrical appliances, she doesn't know about kissing, and she is adopted by the hippie Brits and their wacky daughter like the blind farmer taking in Frankenstein's identity-crisis-suffering monster.

blake said...

Well said. Although I can't help but wonder if the film would have benefited from a few big band numbers.

Jack L said...

I loved this review!
Concise yet very well written and articulate, makes me realise how bad my writing is...

Anyway, this film looks great, I'll definitely watch it when I can, which means in a few months :(

Fletch said...

@ Hokahey - Hanna really reminded me of some kind of sci-fi movie where the friendly alien is brought to earth and slowly taught about all of our modern ways. One thing bothered me, though...anyone can make music. It might be poor, but even Hanna herself could make a drum beat, or fashion a rudimentary guitar, or sing, for chrissakes! Though it provided some nice scenes later and added to the overall theme, I think they ought to have altered/removed that element from her story, if only for the gaping hole it left.

I LOVED the family, and her scenes with them were probably my favorite part of the film. I want to be in that family. Also, I didn't really have a place to put this in the review, but holy shit was that great casting. Flemyng is always nice to see, but Williams is never less than stellar, and adds so much class to a film merely by showing up. What little we got to see of her character and their relationship was great.

@ Blake - You could be...swingin'...from a star!!!!!

@ Jack - Thanks so much! Makes me feel even better because I struggled with this review - I really wanted it to be good and wasn't all that pleased with the end result.

And no, your writing is not poor at all. Pshhaw!

Really, it's not coming near you any time soon? I'm a bit surprised - it might have American financing, but there's almost nothing American about the film itself, from the actors to the director to the locations and so on. A shame.

Jack L said...

@Fletch
I just checked the release date for France, 25 of May...
But then I checked my local multiplex, and it isn't even being released.
So it looks like I'll have to wait for the DVD release.

Anyway, you should be pleased with the review, I can't see why you wouldn't be, it was great and if you convinced me to see this film then it fulfilled it's purpose didn't it?

Fletch said...

@ Jack - Well, that just stinks. Still think it's bizarre...

I'm pleased you liked it, really, and I'm not fishing for compliments. But you know, sometimes when you're writing something, it just isn't coming out the way you hoped or you stumble or think you could have done even better. That's all it is. Thrilled to have convinced ya.

M. Hufstader said...

"But it has that...zip...that spark...that certain je ne sais quois that I only wish I could put into words." Couldn't agree with you more. I could (and have) try to outline every detail I like about Hanna, but even that...doesn't quite get at it. There's something organically brilliant about this movie that just makes it a straight up GOOD MOVIE, which is something I feel like theaters haven't seen the likes of for a while. Great review!

Fitz said...

I thought this would have garnered a larger following, but I'm glad you enjoyed it as I did.

Fletch said...

@ M. - Thanks, though you really did say it all, and better than I!

@ Fitz - I don't know, I'm not too disappointed with the turnout thus far. It ought to make about as much as Kick-Ass...

cinemasights said...

Well, I think there's a bit more to the film than you suggest. I certainly think the film has something to say about human nature.

It is hard to pin down what makes this film work. As I suggested in my review, it's part of a rare cycle of new films that are pushing the bounds of Hollywood film conventions.

Fletch said...

@ James - But doesn't every film kind of say something about human nature? One could argue that even shit like Drive Angry accomplishes that. Anyway, I'm just playing devil's advocate there - I'm sure this one does as well to an extent.

Check out the review that M. did over at The Smoking Pen - it more or less breaks down a lot of the conventions that the film avoided, and in a pretty humorous way, too.

Time Lord said...

Just saw the movie myself, and your review is spot friggin' on. Agreed on all accounts. And I agree with Jack - one hell of a very well articulated review, mate. Loved the Leeloo comparison.

Sam Lockley said...

I really enjoyed this film, it has that 'Stranger in a Strange Land' feeling to it. The juxtaposition of virgin innocence with the physical ability to kick ass is very interesting and a great idea for a central character (as mentioned, Leeloo-esque. Great blog entry man.