Young Judge Patrick Naugle was raised to be the perfect cardboard packaging salesman.
Our review of Hanna (Blu-ray), published September 5th, 2011, is also available.
"I just missed your heart."
Director Joe Wright has been known for mostly lofty period pieces (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), so an action movie seemed like the filmmaker's least likely 180 degree turn. It would be the equivalent of James Ivory directing Die Hard 5: Die Harder, Then Hardest, Then Die Again. Either way, Wright's Hanna was a critical if not complete box office success and now comes to DVD care of Universal Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Raised by her father (Eric Bana, Hulk) in the middle of a remote forest in Finland, young blue eyed, blonde haired Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones) has been taught how to be the perfect assassin. When Hanna's mysterious father sends her off into the real world for the first time, he knows the dangers that she will face, including a relentless CIA operative named Marissa (Cate Blanchett, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) who will stop at nothing to capture both Hanna and her father. As Hanna journeys across Europe under the radar, Marissa's motives for finding Hanna become chillingly clear.
Hanna was not what I was expecting. I'm still trying to figure out if that was a good or a bad thing. I wanted to like it more than I did, which is disappointing because I was really looking forward to seeing it. Yet the film has much that I admire, and to that end I want to recommend it to my readers. The trailers made it look like a taught, tight action thriller. While it does have elements of the action genre, it's something much more—which is what threw me for a loop.
To Hanna's credit—as well as director Joe Wright's—the movie doesn't feel like anything you've ever seen before. There are elements that ring familiar, but the pacing and beats are all slightly off or vastly different than what you'd expect from a movie about a girl who has been trained to become an exceptional killer. For one of the first times in recent memory I am having a hard time explaining the intangible feel of a movie; you just have to see Hanna to fully grasp it's quirky, odd vibe.
The action in Hanna isn't of the standard, by-the-numbers variety. There are bursts of fighting and chases, but none of them are filled with cheesy CGI effects or stunts so outlandish that you don't believe they're actually happening. Running through the theme of Hanna is the idea of fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm are often referenced, and the end showdown between Hanna and her pursuers (a spoiler only if you've never seen a chase movie before) is filled with so much obvious symbolism that it practically beats you over the head with the butt of a gun to prove its point. The idea of fairy tales—an alternate reality, if you will—gives the film an extra added level of interest.
What I liked best about Hanna were the performances. Saoirse Ronan—one of the most talented child actors working in Hollywood today—as the title's lead character plays Hanna with a cool detachment from the real world; her life has been spent in an almost solitary existence away from technology or meaningful relationships that she almost becomes an oddity in and of herself. Ronan's dark blue eyes and pale complexion (almost albino at times) offers an ethereal quality that makes Hanna a fascinating character to watch. The character is so engaging, in fact, that I almost want to see a sequel to see where Hanna ends up next.
Other characters pale by comparison, although the actors all give it their best shot. Cate Blanchett as Marissa, the CIA officer hunting Hanna and her father, is as calculated and inhuman as a robot. I could complain that this seems to give the character a very one-note feel, but maybe that's the point—it's clear that the character of Marissa has made her work at the CIA the only thing that matters (the fact that she doesn't have children is touched upon briefly before one of the film's more shocking moments).
Another standout is Tom Hollander (Lord Cuttler from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) as a night club owner turned bounty hunter who is called upon to help collect Hanna. Hollander's weird character (who clearly enjoys spending time with transsexuals and wears just a faint amount of lip gloss) gives the film a nice boost and adds just a touch of depth to the proceedings. Jason Flemyng (From Hell) and Olivia Williams (Rushmore) have thankless roles as a couple who meet up with Hanna during her escape and inadvertently help her move from location to location with their two young children. Eric Bana rounds out the cast, though his character for me as the least engaging to watch; while Bana is a good actor I never found much of a connection his portrayal.
Hanna works most of the time though slows down around the second act. Even with that complaint, I feel that Hanna has enough going for it—especially its off-kilter vibe—that it's well worth seeking out. There are a lot of action moves out there but few that take thier characters and attempt to flesh them out into real people. Hanna isn't perfect, but then again what human is?
Hanna is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks excellent for a standard definition transfer. The colors shine brightly (especially the moments in the forest) and are muted when appropriate. Black levels appear solid and there aren't any major defects (dirt, grain, edge enhancement) to distract from the viewing. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the picture quality, the audio mix does the film a great service of conveying the intense action and suspense. The pulse pounding film score by The Chemical Brothers—which you think wouldn't work, but does—pumps through all five channels with great effect. Also included this disc are English, French and Spanish subtitles, as well as Dolby 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish and a Dolby DVS 2.0 mix in English.
Hanna's extra features include a commentary track by director Joe Wright that delves into the production, story, characters and special effects; around four minutes of deleted scenes; an alternate ending (that was rightfully cut) and "Anatomy of a Scene: The Escape from Camp" which delves into the process of how the scene was constructed.
While I didn't think Hanna was a complete success, I also don't think it is by any means a failure. For those who like their action films with a bit more panache and artistry, Hanna should easily fit that bill. Universal's work on this disc is uniformly excellent in all aspects.
Hanna is worth checking out. Just make sure to cover your heart.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.