SARAH McCANN has one word for this thriller. And that word is…
Directed by Joe Wright
Seen at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse
This film is pulsatingly awesome. It’s not hugely subtle, or elaborately plotted, but it packs a punch in all the right places.
The story follows 16 year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) through her attempts to escape evil-crazy-lady Marissa (Cate Blanchett) across Europe. In other words, just a big excuse for lots of really cool fighting, pounding music, and some great, atmospheric camerawork.
In fact, this film isn’t really greater than the sum of its parts, but hell, those parts are bloody great: there’s a topless Eric Bana, a ginger Cate Blanchett and a sexually-confused Tom Hollander, all supporting Saoirse Ronan, who appeals to the audience on a personal level as successfully as she did in The Lovely Bones.
Not only is the cast stellar, but the cinematography – courtesy of Alwin H. Kuchler – is really effective. The shots are innovative, making the most of breath-taking German and Finnish landscapes, often making use of impressive panning and running shots, making the whole film feel contemporary and, well, cool. This is supported by an incredible original soundtrack by the Chemical Bros – at the first hint of action the music pumps up, adding extra shots of adrenaline, making those fight scenes that little bit more exciting.
The beginning of the film is not for the faint-hearted; the audience is hit immediately with the brutality of Hanna’s lifestyle, with her hunting a deer with a home-made bow and arrow, with ensuing gore. Unfortunately, most of the shock moments, including this one, were included in the trailer, but they’re done with such a level of realism that they retain their impact, even if you are expecting them.
However, once this initial shocking scene is over, there’s a good twenty minutes in which not very much happens. With no music or change of setting, we focus on Hanna and her father Erik (Bana), stuck in the snowy mountains of Finland (or possibly Germany, it’s not hugely clear), doing training montages and such like. It’s certainly a slow way to begin a film.
But once the pace picks up, and Hanna finds her way out of those Finnish woods, everything moves up a gear. You’ve already seen her take out a deer, but it soon becomes clear that her talents extend to man-hunting as well. Her escape from captivity at the research centre/high security prison is one climactic point in the film, where she handles a situation James Bond would baulk at. One of those moments that you have to grin and think “goddamn, that’s cool”.
In some ways, this film pulls you in two directions. While it brings you ever closer to Hanna as a person through its relentless focus on her, there is a strange atmosphere at points which is both magical, and estranging, pushing you away at the same time. Scenes in a strange circus cottage are a creepy reminder of the corrupted innocence of Hanna, who has never experienced fun (Eric Bana reading out the dictionary in a silly accent does not count). The joy of fairy-tales and arcades is turned into a seedy shoot-out zone, a metaphor for Hanna’s life.
All in all, this film is slick. The soundtrack is cool, the music is cool, the acting is . . . well, I think you get the picture. So go see it.