Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Joe Wright/Saoirse Ronan HANNA: a whirlwind of fairy tale fun, guns and family

TrustMovies is sorely tempted to rave about HANNA -- the new film directed by Joe Wright and starring the amazing Saoirse Ronan -- till the cows come home. It is simply so much fun, and so well acted, written and directed. For awhile. And then it lapses into almost standard, attenu-ated chase mode until  -- the movie simply stops. And that's it. And yet it is so rich and frisky, fast-moving, funny and even thought-provoking for such a good long while that, while we can't forgive it its tiresome finale, we can and will remember it for its fulsome beginning and middle.  Which are, at this point in time, a mere quarter into the new year, as good as anything else we've seen.

If director Wright (shown at left) wanted to leave behind his penchant for classy historical romances (Atonement and Pride & Predjudice; I'm leaving out his near-complete misfire The Soloist), he couldn't have picked a better project than this one.  Part mystery, part fairy tale, part family drama, part James Bond thriller (see below), part comedy, part satire, part coming-of-age (to name but a few of the genres packed into this pudding), it is finally the theme of family that gives Hanna its unusual weight and punch. Who is this strange young girl, clearly trained to be able to fight and kill? (Shades of Kick-Ass and last week's Super, yet very different from either of them.) We know who Hanna's father is (the very hunky Eric Bana), though her mother -- alive, dead? -- seems up for grabs. And what kind of a father trains his daughter to kill without a trace of either qualm or remorse?

Wright and his writers -- Seth Lochhead and David Farr -- start with a relatively shocking scene involving reindeer entrails and then keep the pace moving so swiftly and giddily that we're happy to go along for the ride. And quite a ride it is -- literally. Our heroine has been raised in the arctic. When she finds herself instead in the dessert, this is baffling enough. But then in the film's most delightful section -- also its most exciting and funny -- she comes upon a British family that more or less takes her in.

These four are played by Olivia Williams, Jason Flemying, Jessica Barden (below, left, also seen in Tamara Drewe) and Aldo Maland, and a weirder bunch you'll not have imagined. From having no family (or at least a very dark, strange one), Hanna is thrust into the clutches of one the goofier yet most endearing of British oddball families -- from whom she learns, glancingly, all sorts of of new feelings and behavior. Ms Ronan is marvelous in this section; well, when isn't she? But here, she has even more to handle and manages it all with great aplomb.

Assigned to meet her father in Germany, Hanna runs afoul of a couple of very nasty spy types: Cate Blanchett (below, center) at her most automaton/mean machine, and a very creepy, funny and blond Tom Hollander (below, right) in a role unlike any, I believe, that he has so far played.  (Perhaps he's channeling Dirk Bogarde from Modesty Blaise?) Casts do not get much better than the one rounded up here, and Ms Ronan leads it with strength & panache.

Regarding that ending, since so much else went so well, was there no one to say to the filmmaker: "Stop. This chase is tiresome and predictable. Can't we do something different, please?"  I guess not.  But as I say, so much has gone so right with Hanna, that I suppose we can forgive -- overlook?-- its last few minutes.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is the film's rating. As the violence was proceeding apace, I remember thinking to myself, "This movie certainly deserves its 'R' rating!" Well, guess what? In its infinite stupidity, our rating board has given Hanna a PG-13. That a film so steeped in violence could have ended up with this rating is a disaster. And don't tell me that Focus Features, its distributor, had the movie trimmed down to get that PG-13. Of course it did. But why? It still reeks of murder and terror, of some particularly gruesome sorts -- not to mention what happens to Hanna's erstwhile family. Just because they don't show this last bit hardly means that it did not happen.  And this is something that both children and adults alike will be able to figure out. If everyone concerned had let this film stay true to itself, rather than trying to have it both ways, Hanna might have been a classic. In any case, our rating board should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. Or did someone simply gift them with a little payola?

Hanna opens this Friday, April 8, at theaters (as they say) everywhere. On the film's web site I tried to find a way to locate that proverbial "theater near you," but came up blank. Maybe you'll have better luck....

No comments: