Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hanna - Review

Joe Wright's Hanna is sensational. He holds back nothing as he crafts a potent, gorgeous, audacious & aggressively creative coming-of-age thriller. Miles from the period restraints of Pride and Prejudice & Atonement, Wright handles the material with a ballsy confidence. As always, he chooses his lead well - Saoirse Ronan kicks ass as the titular Hanna, pitching her performance perfectly between Uma Thurman's Bride in Kill Bill and Jodi Foster's Nell: an utterly convincing otherworldly girl, raised in complete isolation in the woods, trained to be an assassin, and desperate to discover the world, hear music and feel love. She balances Hanna's tough-as-nails determination with a beguiling naivety and sense of wonder that sells the twisted fairy tale aspect of the story. 

The film itself is a bizarre coming-of-age drama disguised as a pulsating chase movie that takes as much time to appreciate the sun and wind in Hanna's hair as she breathes in the air from a car window, as it does to choreograph dizzyingly hyper-real action scenes to the Chemical Brothers' thumping score. Wright pushes buttons at every turn, never holding back on creative flourish. At times, his approach threatens to be overwhelming, but it is hard not to get caught up in the exhilarating confidence of his unique vision.

Wright delivers one breathtaking set piece after another, while Alwin Kuchler matches the bold, left-of-centre sets with palpably gorgeous cinematography; whether he's filming snow scape hunts, single-take action scenes in eastern european subways or intimate family conversations in sweaty Morroco, his cinematography is mesmerising.

Wright has always drawn exceptional performances from every member of his cast and he gives us another set of fine performances here. Every one of the actors deliver - the heroes with conviction, the villains with bold, cold eccentricity. Tom Hollander is a revelation as perverse, fey blonde ubher hit man, Isaacs & Cate Blanchett unleashes a deeply peculiar, eerily calm villain in Marrisa, a corrupt government agent with deep secrets and an obsessive tooth-cleaning compulsion. Both villains are splendid and frightening creations, with just enough fierce menace to stay just the right side of cartoonish. Blanchett, in particular, finds so much power and force in her performance that her conviction steers Marissa from caricature villain to a pitiable, detestable force to be reckoned with. Wright's again shows his knack with young actors by drawing out an witty, spot on performance from newcomer Jessica Barden as Hanna's only friend - Sophie - an aggressively superficial, effervescent teenager with truckloads of attitude and more words per second than a high level legal secretary.

Wright orchestrates his technical team with bravado, coaxes warmth and complexity out of his cast and shows a briliant eye for striking sets - from gypsies washing clothes at the river, to Moroccan markets  and Eastern European concrete apartments, run down play parks, orange-tiled basements & abandoned theme parks, his sets all feel exhilaratingly fresh. Supremely stylish, cartoonish, yet gritty, his film never questions its own strangeness and, once it gets going, is a juggernaut racing to its blunt, enigmatic conclusion. A striking, original story with layers of character and visual detail that keep unfolding after the initial kick in the face subsides. The purest slice of joyful cinematic abandon of the year.