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Monday, May 02, 2011  

M. Ovie Reviews: Hanna

I finally did get around to seeing Hanna, as promised, and I enjoyed it, as expected. It's a weird little movie, one that could pass as almost completely non-Hollywood if not for the Hollywood cast. Aside from the actors, it just doesn't seem interested in much of what is considered necessary for an action movie. Which is why it works so well as an action movie.

Trash and I like camping with M. Edium, but Eric Bana is raising Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) in some isolated arctic refuge so far off the grid the grid looks like a line from there. Obviously he's passing along all his bad-ass survival skills to the teenaged girl, but she's getting bored and she wants the movie to start already. So Eric Bana's like, okay, if that's what you want, and she's like, yep, pretty much, which sets in motion a whole chain of unlikely and yet somehow inexorable events. Apparently Eric Bana's had this whole plan in place for years, which we don't know anything about until we see it playing out. I'm not going to go into detail, but after you see it, you can have even more fun imagining how Eric Bana explained it to Hanna in advance. And imagining Hanna repeatedly saying, "Wait, I'm going to what?" in the dozen or so languages Eric Bana has apparently taught her over the campfire.

So the plan is pretty much for them to split up and meet up again later elsewhere, with all sorts of adventures in between to show off their various quasi-superpowers. Which is all unlikely enough, but then Cate Blanchett shows up as an office executive from Hell, firing off Texas-flavored R's and L's through those choppers of hers that somehow seem a lot more predatory than usual. So we have our heroes and our antagonist, and a bunch of places to travel through, and a ruthless henchman who for some reason dresses like Owen Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums, and we're good to go.

Except we're not, because there's all kinds of other cool stuff going on throughout. This is a very stylish movie, with all of the action scenes shot in ways that are innovative enough to be interesting but not enough to be distracting, save one scene in which Hanna is chased through tunnels that are deliberately lit to look like a moving Escher-maze, and that's cool-looking enough that you don't mind being distracted. There's also the fascinating score by the Chemical Brothers, and I would just like to extend my congratulations to Mrs. Chemical for raising such talented boys. I'm the first person to ever make that joke, right? I almost have to be, I'm sure.

One time in a fiction-writing class, I learned that when writing a story, keep it interesting by not going with the first thing you think of, but the second thing. Everyone who reads it has already thought of the first thing by the time you get to it, so if you go with the second thing, it keeps it interesting and unpredictable. I like how Hanna seems to go with that second thing wherever possible. Like, you know how a person on their own in foreign lands will inevitably encounter a stupid American tourist, or even a whole family of them? Hanna flips that script by making the stupid American family British instead. It's the little things like that, you know.

There's some backstory, and something of a mystery, and some stuff about Hanna's origin story, but it's really not necessary. Hanna is at its best when it's stripped down to its essentials, when we're following the main character who is babe-in-woods, unstoppable fighting machine, and walking MacGuffin all in one. All the other crap the movie uses to explain her is just window dressing. Stuff from, if you will, an action movie that considered it necessary. Most of the time, this one knows better.

posted by M. Giant 9:43 PM 0 comments


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