Friday, January 13, 2012

Hannah (2011)

     I don't know what to make of director Joe Wright's Hanna (2011).  It is part hard-edge espionage thriller, part standard action fare, and part tweener (or maybe young adult) yarn about friendship and family.  It also calls upon established stars Cate Blanchett (as CIA maven Marissa Wiegler) and Eric Bana (as Hanna's father, Erik Heller) to adopt over-the-top accents for no real reason.  That is not to say that it is poorly made or unenjoyable.  Hanna is fine, but it probably could have been better if it had been more determined as to how it wanted to tell its story.
     I will say that Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) has the creepiest, most expressive blue eyes I have seen in recent cinema.  There is something otherworldly about them.  As such, they help sell the notion that Hanna is some government concocted being, not an ordinary human being.  Add in the odd education her "father" gives her in the remote, snowy woods of Finland, and Hanna may as well be an alien in human form set out amongst the people to complete her secret mission.
     Hanna works best when the government pursuit of their renegade assets gives way to the interactions between a vacationing British family and not-quite-properly adapted Hanna.  These scenes are lighter – almost breezy – but retain the hint of danger and suspense.  More than that, they show off the contrast between people who grow up as part of a society and those who can only mimic as much.  Unfortunately, these scenes are likely not what one is expecting from Hanna
     Blanchett and Bana are fine here, but their roles could have been easily handled by a number of mid-grade actors.  The history between Marissa and Erik isn't given enough weight in its presentation – and where it is shown, it strikes a harsh contrast against the lighter, comic scenes – and the resolution of it is most unsatisfactory.  There is a nice call back to end the film, but that, too, stands in contrast to how the story had been developing.
     I wouldn't steer anyone away from seeing Hanna – it is entertaining, if inconsistent.  But I would warn them to not expect it to be gritty or serious.  It is a bit of fantasy, a (perhaps ill-conceived) parable about the power of women who are coming of age and the risks of the adult world they must enter that throws a little government conspiracy into the mix. 

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