Going in blind – I know I may not always say it, but going into a film with little to no background can truly set a unique tone. Sure, there’s a bit of a gamble by doing this, but I think when you know next to nothing, it’s hard to nitpick it to death. That’s not to say there are no “bad” films out there, but I would rather take a film for what it is than to simply tear it apart for no good reason. Because a lot goes into a how that “said” film looks and feels, so by taking a film like “Hanna” at face value allowed me to enjoy it in a totally different way.
What’s it about? Believe it or not, I still am a little fuzzy on what this story was supposed to ‘really’ be about, but mostly it follows a 16-year-old girl by the name of Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) as she breaks away from an extremely sheltered life into the real world. Armed with years of hand to hand combat training with her ex-CIA father Erik (Eric Bana) somewhere in Finland, Hanna was not your ordinary teenager. In fact, she was anything but; as she didn’t talk, act, walk like a 16-year-old would, having been isolated for so long. So, she finally left the confines of her cabin in the middle of nowhere, she truly had nothing but what her father instilled in her. But, for most people, that was more than enough as this girl knew how to take care herself in more ways than one the longer we watch her grow and learn about this world she had not yet experienced. Of course with joy also comes some sadness, as Hanna also learned about what her father use to do for the CIA and up until that point, still knew secrets that could never be told. Secrets that involved Hanna’s own DNA, which a handy medical printout confirmed as “abnormal” after being attached to a rouge CIA program that had gone south shortly after its birth. It was right about then this entire story turned from intriguing to erratic, as the longer you watched, the more lost you became resulting in a conclusion that could have been so much better.
Who’s in it? Unless you’ve seen “Atonement” and “The Lovely Bones,” the name Saoirse Ronan means absolutely nothing to you. Having not seen either of those films myself, I fell into that group, but all that is history as watching Ronan in this film has opened my eyes. This ‘chic’ can flat out act and bring some rare emotion and intensity to a story that almost didn’t deserve it. I was impressed and really didn’t expect to be, which is always icing on the cake when watching an actor for the first time. And truly after seeing Ronan in this role, I will be making a point to go back and watch her earlier films. Too bad I can’t say the same about Cate Blanchett, who was a bit of miscast as the unspoken villain to the story. Having followed Blanchett for quite some time, I have always been daunted with her honest look and feel, but it seemed she was a bit uncomfortable in this role as Marissa Wiegler. Maybe it was the script, but I just could never fully buy into it, leaving me with little to nothing to praise. That’s actually surprising when you figure she was half the reason I gave this film a chance, the other half being Eric Bana. Unlike Blanchett though, we needed more of Bana, often craving for just one more action sequence. And this is a guy who to this day still flies under the radar in Hollywood as someone you sort of know, but not sure from where.
Directing at will – It’s not often you find a film as visually sound and thrilling as this one is without expecting it. Typically we know what we’re walking into, like “Avatar” or “Tron: Legacy,” but I never expected to be wowed like I was with this film. The pure look of this film was uncanny, as all the dreary backgrounds gave way to some of the most vivid cinematography I have seen in a long time. For anyone that wants to know what good art direction is, watch this film as it defines the term in a big way. Because from a technical standpoint, this film was flawless, as virtually no detail was missed during all the separate sequences and set design. That’s all to the credit of director Joe Wright, who might be one of those directors that you never thought would be capable of something like this, simply based on his resume. And who knows, maybe had he been a part of the writing of this film, we would be talking about a ‘diamond in the rough’ instead of a film that could have been so much more. That’s a shame because there were parts to this story written by Seth Lochhead that were actually quite brilliant, but with little to no background or follow through, I am left with nothing. That didn’t sit well and frankly was a letdown given the potential it had from the start. Maybe for an over budgeted action flick, I would let that go, but this was anything but that, so it’s a good thing Wright was around to clean up the mess, for this film would be nothing without him.
Bottom Line – For a film that many people will not see until they stumble upon it one day at a redbox, “Hanna” is definitely worth the gamble. And make no mistake about it, this film is a fairy tale at its core, so don’t let that deter or attract you. Because at the end the day, it finds a way to ‘wow’ you the longer you watch despite all its undoing’s, which is quite rare in Hollywood.
For more of Marcus’ takes on movies recently released, click here
To see when and where “Hanna” is playing in Jacksonville, click here