April 28, 2011

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Hanna: The best movie you haven’t seen this year

hanna movie poster

Hanna will not be a huge hit. It is way too unconventional, while being advertised as the opposite. The trailer makes it appear to be a straightforward revenge-thriller type of flick, with a female “assassin-in-training.” Sound familiar? La Femme Nikita, The Professional, Kick-Ass, etc. It has been done before. And those are good movies. Why would you want to see another one of those?

What Hanna does offer is layered storytelling that goes beyond the typical revenge premise. It really is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. Flawed? Yes. Overly produced? Yes. Sometimes too aware of its own process? Yes. But still brilliant.

The movie begins with a panoramic shot of a snowy wilderness. You see Hanna with bow and arrow, hunting a deer in the woods. She shoots the deer, but it runs. She chases it down, pulls out her gun and puts down the animal. Her words right before doing so: “I just missed your heart.”

We are introduced to Hanna and her father, Erik who live in the remote wilderness. It becomes apparent that Erik has trained Hanna from her birth to be a competent killer. She can hunt. She is proficient with guns, hand to hand combat and versed in multiple languages. Not exactly your normal childhood. But, Hanna is not a normal child.

I don’t want to give out too many details about the film, because you really should see it for yourself and not have it spoiled by my revealing plot points ahead of time. Eventually, Hanna has to enter society. She has a mission. As with all good plots, things go awry and that is where the excitement begins.

Where this film goes that most thrillers don’t, is its focus on character(somewhat to the expense of plot), its execution(visual/soundtrack) and the additional layer of meaning behind the whole story.

Character: Saoirse Ronan is exceptional in this film. She is going to be a star. The real joy of the film is watching her character explore a modern world she has never seen before. She is an exceptional child, but is socially stunted by her upbringing. It makes for special moments in the film that are far more interesting than the action set pieces.

Execution: The way the director, Joe Wright, shot this film and how it was edited is very heavy handed. So much so, that you are aware of it as you watch the movie. It’s like a mashup of Run Lola Run, the Bourne Identity and a music video. The thing is, it works. He breaks convention and that makes what would be an expected movie experience much more curious. So much so that you really don’t know how everything will play out in the end. The soundtrack, by the Chemical Brothers, amplifies the experience and is exactly in tune with the offbeat approach the directer took.

Meaning: The director plays with both the theme and imagery of fairy tales throughout the film. The idea of fairy tales as road maps for children to follow into adulthood is right in line with Hanna’s journey from child to adult, as well as her experience growing up in a sheltered life, before going out into the dangerous world.┬áThe movie ends without explicitly answering a lot of the audience’s questions. Or. . .maybe it did. Maybe you just had to look harder to find the answers.

If you haven’t seen this film, go check it out. If you have already seen it, I have a few questions of my own in the comments and would be curious to see what others thought.

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