Friday, 6 May 2011

[462] Hanna (2011) Review

So the past few months have seen a number of key electronic acts of the late-90s/early 2000s branching out into scoring films. Robotic French party-housers Daft Punk bleeped along for Tron Legacy, while Basement Jaxx contained their maximalist madness for the synth-crawling, Carpenter-cribbing Attack The Block soundtrack.

In Hanna, Joe Wright's tween-killer thriller, the score is provided by Chemical Brothers, where they seem to split themselves completely, to the point of being bipolar - with twinkly Boards of Canada-isms sharing space with more typical slamming beats and bass throbs. Their score works better in the latter, action-packed mould, as does the film itself. However, while such immediacy raises goosepimples in the cinema, I found myself struggling to recreate that punch out of context.

Let's put it this way, then.

Which is actually the inverse of how I'd rank those duos based on their album-single work. Maybe it's this pursuit of funky, fast-food electronic acts, who mostly deal in dance- or pop-confection, that's at fault? None of those three are particularly known for their grasp of atmosphere, or subtlety. Basement Jaxx have been a huge revelation in this regard, but the other two are lacking.

I say let's dig beyond the surface: give the mavericks a shot. It worked for Trent Reznor, whose obsession with texture and melody, alongside rhythm and pure noise, made him a perfect fit for The Social Network. So, with that in mind, I patiently await a mainstream flick scored by Squarepusher. Or Venetian Snares. Now that would be something.

Joe Wright is starting to make a name for himself. Not as ‘one to watch'. That happened years ago. No, now he's courting a different creative persona, one of the genre magpie. See, after making his feature directorial debut with Regency period drama, Pride & Prejudice, scoring plaudits with the heavily Oscar-nommed Atonement, and actively (and unsuccessfully) baiting awards attention with The Soloist, Wright's new film, Hanna, moves completely away from the drama, romance and period poise of his previous work, instead aiming for high octane action thrills.

Saoirse Ronan stars as the lead character, a young girl who is brought up in remote Northern Europe by her father, ex-CIA agent, Erik Heller (Eric Bana). Schooled in multiple languages, lectured from various encyclopaedias, and taught to fend for herself as both a keen-eyed hunter and a resourceful fighter, Hanna is raised as the ultimate super-operative. Her skills are put to the test when she is finally set loose, on the hunt for Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), a shady figure from her father's past.

It is in its opening scenes that
Hanna really cooks, as Ronan and Bana develop a minimal, yet complex chemistry, made up of minute moments of warmth within Heller's rather brutal training regime. As Hanna, Ronan is beguiling, able to be at once cruelly hard and youthfully naive. The former trait is put to thrilling, violent use in the film's first action sequence, where Hanna adeptly, single-handedly breaks out of a CIA safe house, set to quick-cut montage and the bass-heavy throb of the Chemical Brothers score.

From the title card, which flashes blood-red on screen at the punctuation of a gunshot, Wright delights in going straight for the jugular, whether it's in the compressed sense of pacing or the kid in sweetshop sampling of shots, set-ups and diegetic perspectives. At times it‘s dizzying, as extreme close-ups give way to CCTV mash-ups, zooms, and nonsensical strobing.

It's an interesting, if rather superficial aesthetic, especially when twinned with the film's equally unsubtle approach to characterisation. Wiegler, in a desperate bid for leitmotif, is immediately defined by her choice in footwear, as well as her ginger mop and heavy accent. Other directors could transform this mixture of expressionism and caricature into pop art, but
Hanna comes off as uneven, at times even a little unsophisticated.

Read the full article here.

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