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Hanna - Movie Review by Cinema Scavarda

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Anticipation is strange. Seeing the trailer for "Hanna" a few months back put this movie firmly on the 'anticipated' radar, Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement", "The Lovely Bones") as fierce teenager looked pretty darn intriguing. At Wondercon last weekend, director Joe Wright and Ronan participated in a panel where Wright took a shot across the bow at the portrayal in "Sucker Punch" of its supposed feminism. Ronan spoke of her character as a pure individual experiencing the world. Anticipation ratcheted way up especially when the moderator said the film wasn't what he expected, in a good way.

Perhaps the combination of great visuals from the trailer and the sneak peeks plus the artist's passion created too high of a bar for this film? Because, "Hanna" simply does not evoke the emotion or investment expected from a film where a 16 year old girl is fighting for her life.

Hanna opens with the title character hunting, killing and gutting her prey. Hanna and her father, Erik, live just above the Arctic Circle. We learn he raised her there. She knows how to hunt, fight, kill and speak several languages. She's never seen another human being except her father and a film strip picture of her mother. What she knows of the outside world has been derived from an encyclopedia or Grimm's fairytale. It's a terrific set-up.

Erik gives her the option of flipping a switch (literally) when she's ready for the 'real' world. When she does, the signal will summon Marissa Viegler, a CIA agent, who Erik has trained Hanna to kill at the first opportunity. Needless to say, Hanna flips the switch. As her father says later, kids grow up. Dad takes off leaving Hanna behind with a vague plan to meet up with him in Berlin.

"Hanna" is a fairly straight up action film with Ronan doing a fine job running, leaping, shooting and handling the martial arts. Yet, the script attempts to combine vengeful, hunter Hanna with a story of a young girl thrust into a world for which she is totally unprepared. The action is most commendable, even refreshing in its straight up simplicity. But the film attempts to engage the audience more emotionally with Hanna's plight and here the film doesn't get off the ground.

Hanna meets up with a British family, mom, dad, teenage daughter and young son. Ronan's Hanna is distant and remote, as if she can not shake off the freezing cold of the Arctic. It makes sense that she is lost but the portrayal of stunned teenager who morphs into killing machine fails to evoke empathy.

In addition to a lack of emotional connection to the heroine, there are a number of other pieces of this film that just don't click. In terms of the story, it seems pretty unbelievable that Erik, a trained agent, would unleash a young girl, with only the knowledge about how to kill, on the world. He fails to educate her on the basics of how things look, work, sound outside their Arctic home. She doesn't even know what something basic to her survival such as a passport is. Seems like setting her up for failure and just a ridiculous, unseemly lapse in training. The Chemical Brothers provide the score. It's pretty terrific. But the volume is ramped up during the fight scenes to the point where the music is the focus, not the action. A great score can really kick a scene into high gear and set tone but hearing the music where it distracts from well choreographed action is completely counterproductive and distracting.

Joe Wright has produced two wonderful dramas, "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice". He makes films that are beautiful to watch and experience. With Hanna, he again has made a beautiful film. Yet, both "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice" were jam packed with emotional resonance and educated us on the price of the decisions we make. Wright seemed to have left both off the menu for Hanna. At Wondercon, Wright argued that the characterizations and costuming of Sucker Punch were actually anti-feminist. After seeing Hanna, it's rather unclear exactly how Wright sees Hanna as a feminist figure. She's a young girl fighting to stay alive, nothing more. She's not out to make a statement or stand up to anything. She wants the revenge she's been raised to seek.

Perhaps the most confounding thing about this film is Cate Blanchett's performance. Blanchett is one of the finest actors of our time, usually reliably brilliant. In Hanna, she's a shade from awful in every way, her hair, her accent, her motivation, her investment in the proceedings. As the villain of the piece, she isn't particularly smart or scary. She sort of rants and raves a bit, in that dreadful accent. And that's it.

Again, the overall reaction to this is disappointment. Yes, the action sequences are well done and the film looks great. Definitely rent it but save yourself the cost of a visit to the theatre.

Rating 5 out of 10


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