Thursday, April 14, 2011

‘Hanna’ – Electrifying Thriller

Try not to focus on the plot, instead focus on the adrenalized thrills that Joe Wright delivers in his latest film ‘Hanna’. Starring the very talented Saoirse Ronan (‘Atonement’, another Joe Wright film) as Hanna, Eric Bana (Time Travelers Wife) as her widowed father and Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood) as the evil, CIA operative Marissa, this film is action packed thriller. Slick, moody, with dark the undertones of a Grimm fairy tale and a pulsing soundtrack from the Chemical Bothers, ‘Hanna’ delivers on most fronts, especially when it’s young star Ronan is onscreen.

Ronan seems to have a limitless ability to keep us engaged; the tension she is able to create as well as the timeless quality she brings to Hanna is absolutely stunning. Her pale blue eyes, in the natural light can be spooky in one instance, the eyes of a predator and killer; while being warm and loving the next instance. Hanna is a motherless teenager being raised in the Arctic by her widowed father Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA operative who is determined to raise her as a warrior. Her father knows what awaits her in the cold and very cruel world outside their little bubble; ‘Adapt or die’, he preaches. And when Hanna reenters the world of ‘civilized’ men, she moves like a cunning animal but is still filled with childlike wonder as she encounters a new world filled with electric lights, TVs, computers and other children.

‘Hanna’ is not a perfect film by far; the first half is exceedingly better than the second half. In the first half of the film, we are drawn into a dreamy, surreal, fabled world occupied by Hanna and her father, clad in pelts, living as if they were the last two people left in the world. Erik teaches her to survive, telling her that one day she will have to leave and when she does, she will meet Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett) with one of them having to die. That is the hint of the mystery (which isn’t much of a mystery, but is a bit disjointed) that we are given until the second half of the film. In the first half, the dialogue is sparse, the visuals tell the story, the film score doesn’t even kick in until the CIA choppers begin to descend upon the cabin. The intention is to bring a stark reality to the situation and Wright has chosen well utilizing this method; the electronic pulses of The Chemical Brothers are well suited to the mood and mayhem of the outside world.

Hanna is captured (or was she?) and awakens in an underground room that is surrounded by cameras with imposing fish eye lenses. What follows is a stunning and very thrilling merger of pyrotechnics and surrealism as Hanna is chased through endless tunnels until she finally emerges into the blinding light of the Moroccan desert. From this point, while still visually wonderful and kinetically shot, the film follows a ‘Bourne Identity’ like path to its inevitable conclusion.

Blanchett’s performance as Marissa is a bit puzzling; I have seen her do better. She does play a control freak well, but would have been better served without the forced southern accent. Todd Hollander as a creepy assassin for hire deserves accolades, not for acting but over acting. Clad in a yellow tracksuit, the sadistic assassin whistles a fairy tale like song as he (very awkwardly) lurks and hunts for Hanna. But it is Ronan who makes the film, who transfixes us and deserves every bit of critical praise she can get. A 3 star effort that with a bit of tweaking, could have been a 4 star effort, but is lead by a 4 star actress!

My Redbox pick for this week follows the line of the thriller with the visually engaging ‘Tron: Legacy’. Jeff Bridges is back as Flynn, trapped in the digital world, fighting for his freedom while aided by his son. Falling short of the original ‘Tron’, a cult classic, ‘Legacy’ is packed with action and eye popping graphics. While a little short and predictable in story, this is a BluRay worthy film and a nice way to spend a buck at Redbox. A 3 star effort and a lot of fun!

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