I just want her to stop saying vomitorium, alright?
What’s half fairy tale, half revenge movie, and half coming-of-age film? Hanna! And, to ruin the surprise, it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s not perfect, it’s not unimpeachable, but it’s a load of fun and has a grace and style that propels it past any negative points.
Hanna is the latest film from director Joe Wright, whose earlier Atonement had a lot going for it but never quite congealed into something great. He brings back the breakout star of that film, Saoirse Ronan, to play the title character, a girl raised by her dad (a serviceable Eric Bana) in the snowy wilderness somewhere in Europe. He didn’t just teach her how to play with dolls, though. Her lesson plan includes hunting, multiple languages, combat training, and a story about an evil woman who would kill her. Of course, she can’t stay hidden away in the frozen Tundra, so she activates a beacon which tells the evil woman where she is. What follows is a cat-and-mouse movie where the cat and the mouse change positions and sometimes chase their own tails.
The things that Atonement did right, namely the directorial flourishes and sense of pace and acting, are all done even better here. Hanna is a wild romp through Europe complete with strange campsites and even stranger abandoned amusement parks. The sense of location weighs heavy on Hanna’s shoulders. She’s never been away from her house in the woods and everything is new to her, enhancing the already strong feeling of being out of place. She never stays in the same place for long, but each spot is extremely evocative and you get the feeling that a whole movie could take place at every one of them and there’d still be more to film. In an early prison-break scene a cold-war era building gives Hanna plenty of places to hide from the bad guys and Wright a plethora of backgrounds for his frenetic and inventive camera work. This isn’t one of those super shaky action movies, but the action doesn’t slow down at all. I had no trouble following what was happening in the action scenes, which makes sense, because that’s what Hanna feels most comfortable doing. It’s during the scenes where normal human interaction happens that Hanna feels out of place, and the camera bears that out. Wright manages to get in one of those long takes in here, too, and this one is even more awesome than the one in Atonement.
The problem with Hanna is probably in the character motivations. There’s no real reason for Hanna to hate what amounts to the Evil Stepmother character, played marvelously by Cate Blanchett, outside her father’s brainwashing. Everything works from scene to scene but you just kind of have to accept everybody’s motivations from the get-go and everything will work fine from there. There’s a particularly wonderful set of scenes involving a vacationing British family that are hilarious and sad at the same time. It’s the life Hanna should have had but never will. I love the ending of this movie, also. The location, the direction, the acting, everything works. It’s a spectacular scene, one of the best of the year.
Hanna is a strong, intelligent young woman. A real role model, if such a thing exists. She’s kind of like Alice, wandering through a weird world where little makes sense. Alice with a bow and arrow. And a rocking score by The Chemical Brothers. And people trying to kill her.