Hanna Review

hanna-reviewWhen people are looking back at Hanna years from now, it will probably be remembered primarily for launching the career of Saoirse Ronan, who is destined for stardom. To be fair, many people already know her name from her roles in films like The Lovely Bones, City of Embers and Atonement, but this film gives her the vehicle to take a totally original character in Hanna, and stretch her remarkable acting muscles.

The film begins with Hanna (Ronan) alone in an forest in Finland, hunting an elk. After the kill she is attacked by her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) in a way that is meant to help trainer her, and from that point on the tone is set and you know that Hanna’s life is different from most.

Isolated in the Arctic Circle all her life, Hanna is an expert at many things, but a novice in some of the most fundamental things that people take for granted. She can speak a dozen languages, but she has never heard the sound of music. When her father brings her a box and tells her that pressing the button on it will bring Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) down on them and force them to fight, it is just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

When Hanna inevitably presses the button, Wiegler, a CIA agent, is quick to respond, thinking that it is her old CIA asset, Erik Heller. When they find Hanna, they bring her to a secret location, where Hanna thinks she puts an end to Wiegler and escapes into what turns out to be Africa.

As Hanna travels to meet her father at a pre-arranged location, she discovers life for the first time, and begins to experience the things that most people deal with on an everyday basis. She listens to music, makes a friend, hangs out with a boy, and even has her first kiss. Then as she realizes that her pursuers are still on her, she begins to discover secrets about her own past that make her question everything.

hanna review winter

Different crowds are going to have different experiences with this movie. Those that go in without expectations may leave feeling that they have seen one of the best movies of the year. Those that are expecting a spy story about an assassin will only get half the film that they are hoping for and might think that there are some slow sections in the middle. But beyond the fighting and the spy angle, Hanna is a story about Hanna. She is a trained warrior on the run from CIA-hired goons, but it is always about the journey of a girl who is trying to discover how everything–including herself–works.

The cast does not disappoint, and Hanna offers a few of the strongest performances of the year. Ronan will be a star, or at the very least a much sought after actress after this film. Even if people hate it, it’s hard to find any flaws in her work here. Some may not like a few aspects of the plot, and there are a couple of odd film tricks that may turn others away, but Ronan takes a difficult role that is totally original, and gives a memorable performance.

Bana is similarly strong as Hanna’s father, the former CIA agent who stood against the agency to protect his daughter from Wiegler. His screen time is limited, and he is a secondary character to Hanna, but he eats up the screen when he appears and disappears into the role of a concerned father who just happens to be able to beat the hell out of people.

Blanchett, on the other hand, is strong in her role, but it is a weird role to begin with. She affects a strange southern accent that is meant to give her a quirky personality, along with some of her idiosyncrasies, like her affinity for sparkling teeth. And this is where Hanna falters slightly. The film is so focused on Hanna, that the enemies chasing her—Wiegler and her hired help, Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his crew—become stereotypes, and their characters are never fleshed out.

hanna review movie 09

Wiegler is a “rogue” CIA agent, while Isaacs and his henchmen are German Aryan nation members with a penchance for perversion. They are bad guys because they are bad guys, and there really isn’t much more to it than that.

But that is a deliberate decision by Wright, as the film is something of a fairy tale for Hanna—a fact that is not-so-subtly shown again and again through traditional fairy tale imagery beginning with the first scene of Hanna in a remote forest. But it can be heavy handed at times to say the least. There is one scene in particular where Wiegler emerges from an amusement ride shaped like the Big Bad Wolf that makes dares you to not make the fairy tale connection.

If there is any criticism to level at this film, it belongs solely on the shoulders of Wright, who chooses to invoke a certain visual style that hits or misses with nothing in between. In one scene Hanna is running, and the camera reverses the image to look upside down, then back to normal, then back to upside down, and so on. It is meant to simulate a pulse pounding chase, but it is slightly annoying and gimmicky. On the other hand, Wright has a great eye for action, and one scene with Bana being pursued into a subway where the camera never cuts, is sure to be talked about.

In general, Hanna is an amazing film with a few failings that all seem to come from the idea of simplification. The plot is meant to mimic a fairy tale for Hanna, so the bad guys and reason for them chasing her are both uninspired and unoriginal, which are in contrast to the totally original character. There is also a bizarre decision to begin a seemingly important plot thread, build up and intense climax, then never bother to resolve it. It doesn’t affect the story, but it feels like it is just forgotten. You can guess a few possibilities, but that makes the whole idea of it feel pointless, and it would have helped add emotional weight to the final showdown.

The soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers has also received a fair amount of attention. It is well done, and at specific moments adds to the film’s action sequences extremely well. In the slower moments though it is somewhat forgettable, but maybe that is exactly what it should be. It doesn’t have the impact that Daft Punk’s soundtrack did on Tron: Legacy, but it is a welcome addition.

Minor quibbles aside, Hanna is a film that has flashes of genius in it, from both the cast and the crew. A few stumbling points stand out, but they can be overlooked in regards to the overall package, which is a well-made, well-acted, and enjoyable movie.

Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in September 2018, from 'Spotlight’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

September brings 'The Dragon Prince,' an animated war series, to Netflix

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Buster Scruggs,’ ‘The Bill Murray Stories,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. To simplify things, we round up the best ones each week. On tap this week: New trailers for the Coen brothers' The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and The Bill Murray…
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘Bojack Horseman,’ ‘The Dragon Prince’

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Bojack Horseman, the Dragon Prince, and more.
Movies & TV

‘The Predator’ makes easy prey of ‘The Nun’ to win the weekend box office

Director Shane Black's sci-fi action sequel The Predator ended the reign of last week's box-office champion, horror prequel The Nun, to take the top spot at the weekend box office.
Home Theater

Dish Network or DirecTV: Which is the better choice for you?

So, you’ve chosen to go with a satellite television provider. Check out our quick rundown of what both Dish Network and DirecTV offer in terms of content, hardware, and pricing, and why you might choose them over streaming services.
Movies & TV

'Venom' is all tooth and tongue in the latest movie posters

Tom Hardy will play the lead role in Sony Pictures' Venom. Here's everything we know about the solo feature for the popular Spider-Man spinoff character ahead of the film's 2018 premiere in theaters.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (October 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in September and October 2018, from new comedies to terrifying horror…
Movies & TV

Brie Larson powers up in the first 'Captain Marvel' trailer

Academy Award winner Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel in the upcoming Marvel Studios movie hitting theaters in March 2019. Here's everything we know about Marvel's first female-led superhero movie.
Movies & TV

2018 Emmy Awards winners: The night of ‘Mrs. Maisel’ and diversity

The 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, was full of laughs and drama, as well as some surprises. Here is the full list of nominees, winners, and highlights from the show.
Movies & TV

More plot details and casting news emerge for 'Joker' movie

Todd Phillips is developing a stand-alone Joker origin story, with Joaquin Phoenix set to portray the Clown Prince of Crime. From casting to plot details, here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Movies & TV

More photos from 'It: Chapter Two' bring more Pennywise (and nightmare fuel)

A second film based on Stephen King's novel It hits theaters in September 2019. Here's everything we know about It: Chapter 2, which is set 27 years after the events of 2017's box-office blockbuster, It.