Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hanna (2011)


This was my first encounter with current it-actress Saoirse Ronan, and I have to say, I was impressed.  She was quite possibly the best thing about this film.  

The plot here is Bourne Redux.  Hanna, a 16 year old girl, has no functional understanding of the modern world (having been raised in a cottage in the forest) and is being hunted by the CIA for reasons she doesn't really understand. (Ronan's fair complexion is played up to highlight the otherworldliness of her character.) The role of the sympathetic and helpful civilian is fulfilled here by fellow teenager Jessica, who is on vacation with her slightly kooky yet refreshingly normal family, who provide a much-needed glimmer of humor in an otherwise dark film.

For some reason, I thought Clive Owen was in this movie instead of Eric Bana, and I spent the whole movie wishing that Bana's "retired" CIA agent-cum-father-figure was being played by the superior Owen.  Leaving my own pro-Owen biases aside, Bana seemed a little sappy and melancholy and angsty to be a hard-nosed ex-CIA agent. 

The weakest link here was, surprisingly enough, the usually spectacular Cate Blanchett, whose over-the-top villainness never really reveals a motivation sufficient to justify her behavior and attitude.  Blanchett is a cross between Brian Cox and Chris Cooper in The Bourne Identity--a government employee intent on destroying Hanna and her father in connection with an old CIA operation, though for, as I mentioned above, reasons that are never really made clear.  Is it just a government clean up?  Why, then, is she so personally invested in the outcome? Is she trying to hide her own culpability or unauthorized past actions, as in the first Bourne movie?  Is she involved personally in Hanna's background?  There are hints of a connection (and the physical similarity between Blanchett and Ronan further supports this), but there is no follow through, and no more intimate relationship is ever established. The result is an unnecessarily hostile villain. (Though she is admittedly assisted by a quirky and even humorous henchman in club owner/perpetrator of violence Tom Hollander.)

Credit must be given, too, for the spectacular sets and scenery here.  The opening sequence takes place in a snow-covered forest that belongs in a children's fairy tale, and the cottage where Hanna is raised has a similarly otherworldly quality.  This quietly secure cottage is traded for a darkly antiseptic CIA holding facility worthy of any dystopian tale.  From there, our heroine moves through a barren desert and across Spain (where she, of course, encounters gypsies and meets a boy) and thence through a bleak and deserted urban setting before arriving at a decrepit abandoned amusement park--a location worthy of a climactic scene.  Another pivotal fight scene takes place in a run-down playground.  As with the abandoned amusement park, the contrast between the action and the  location is extremely effective, and nicely parallels the contrast in Hanna's own nature (that is, the physical appearance of childlike innocence and weakness combined with the capacity for committing extremely violent acts with a disturbing lack of affect).

All in all, it was a decent film, though that was, as I've said, the bulk of the credit goes to Ronan and the supporting actors, as well as the striking cinematography.  Also, a warning--this is a movie about a teenage girl who's been trained to kill, so the faint of stomach might want to steer clear.

No comments: