Country: United States
Genre: Action/ Martial Arts
Director: Joe Wright
WORTH A LOOK
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a sixteen year old girl who has been raised to be a warrior; her father Erik (Eric Bana), a former spy, has taught her survival, weapon and hand to hand fighting skills. She is told that either she must kill Marissa (Cate Blanchett), Erik’s old handler, or be killed by her.
By reading this brief description, you might come to the conclusion that Hanna is a typical Hollywood action movie. But this movie is being directed by Joe Wright, whose previous films include The Soloist, Atonement, and Pride & Prejudice. Not a trashy flick in the bunch.
So, what gives?
Joe Wright is too much of an artiste to deign to direct a straight action movie, so Hanna has been tarted up with all sorts of additional layers of meaning. One of the books Hanna read while she was growing up was Grimm’s Fairy Tales. She lives in the woods somewhere in the Arctic circle. The dialog in the film is studied and arch, the way dialog is in fairy tales. We get it. The movie is going to be like a modern version of one of Grimm’s fairy tales.
But Joe Wright’s real interest is using this structure to point out just how strange the world is. He deliberately chooses wildly varying locales: the Arctic circle, a Moroccan desert, a gypsy encampment, a subway in Berlin, a dilapidated theme park with paper mache dinosaurs. Of course, all of this is strange to Hanna — all she’s ever known is the forest. But by choosing locales and social mileaus that are strange to us, Wright puts us in Hanna’s shoes.
All of this is fine, but Wright overplays his hand. The dialog is way too arch, calling attention to itself. Some of the characters are so bizarre, we feel like Wright is poking us with his index finger: “See, see! It’s really a fairy tale!” By the time Marissa exits from a tunnel that looks like the mouth of a big, bad wolf, it’s like, “Enough already! We got it about an hour ago!”
By making the fairy tale references so obvious and on the nose, he loses the intelligentsia he’s trying to appeal to. Wright probably thinks that by being obvious, he’s keeping the dummies who thought they were getting a straight action flick in the loop, but he lost them the minute he started thrusting their noses into unfamiliar cultures and landscapes. The movie ends up seeming both pretentious and banal.
Fortunately, Wright hired Jeff Imada to choreograph the action. He does a fine job, and the actors keep up with him. The action elements are the most effective aspect of Hanna.
I’m not against ambition on principle, but I think it was wasted on this story. Wright would have been better off making a straight action flick. Too bad he felt it was beneath his dignity.