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Saturday, June 22, 2024
State Street Celebration

'Hanna': Writing falls short, points for effort

Sometimes when judging a piece of art, you have to put effort above actual success. Joe Wright's new film ""Hanna"" doesn't work most of the time. However, it's admirable that it's aiming for something special and going at it with full force. You combine that with the few scenes that do work very well and you've actually got a movie worth seeing.

The story follows Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), a teenage girl who lives the by her instincts in the heart of Finland's wilderness. Her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent, trains her in the art of survival because he cares too much about her to give her freedom, happiness and all that other stuff. Of course, the baby bird eventually wants to leave the nest, and that's when all hell breaks loose.

Hanna's father sends her on a mission where she'll have to escape the grasp of scary government officials (Cate Blanchett) and a mysterious hit-man whom I can only describe as the psychopathic love child of Elton John and Anton Chigurh. As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.

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The film's greatest strength is its atmosphere. After the opening scene, you understand who Hanna is. You feel her determination and skill as she hunts in the snow-drenched forests of northern Europe. Joe Wright's schizophrenic and stylistic camera movement reflects the disorienting nature of Hanna's journey through the new world. Wright is about as far away as he can get from his past projects like ""Atonement"" and ""Pride and Prejudice,"" which used large landscapes and little to no movement. Much like his main character, he's exploring new territory, and even though he often gets lost along the way, he does so with an admirable amount of skill.

Despite the interesting filmmaking going on here, I couldn't recommend the film if it didn't also have the brilliant lead performance by Ronan as the titular character. When this girl is fighting bad guys and that brilliant soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers is blasting underneath her, the film is a masterpiece. She's Jason Bourne meets Hit-Girl from ""Kick-Ass."" Ronan is also just as convincing as a teenager as she is a deadly assassin. The character of Hanna is interesting because when Ronan looks at her new environment with those cold blue eyes, we actually believe she's seeing it for the first time. We like spending time with her, and even though it's unlikely, I'd definitely be down for a sequel if the film could get new writers.

Which is a perfect transition to film's great downfall: The writing. I don't know what happened here. The first act of this film had me more engaged than any film had so far this year. Our introduction to Hanna and her struggles, combined with a jaw-dropping escape sequence made me think I was witnessing one of the greatest revenge-thrillers I'd ever seen.

Then the film just kind of loses itself. I blame the traveling hippy family she meets up with about 45 minutes into the film. She wanders around with these uninteresting characters for almost an hour. The film completely loses its momentum during these pointless slightly comedic escapades. At one point in the film, the writers even thought it would be funny if Hanna had to go on a date. The scene doesn't fit in the movie, and it was a completely bland way to explore Hanna's introduction to the opposite sex. The film picks up toward the very end, but it's too little too late. You get your typical revenge-thriller money-shot, but the finale as a whole was completely underwhelming.

Despite the film's fumble in direction, ""Hanna"" is still worth seeing. Its bogus narrative is hypnotic enough to follow all the way through. At the end of the day, it's an art-house-fairy-tale-revenge-thriller and any film that even attempts to fill that premise is probably worth checking out.

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