More noise than signal


Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

If a director’s career path were to be formulated as some kind of geometric series, Joe Wright’s would be unsolvable. The leap from straight period piece Pride & Prejudice to stoic period drama Atonement to stoic drama The Soloist has some sort of obvious arc to it, but the neatness of the graph is rather ruined by 2011’s Hanna, which is a balls-out mental, Bourne Identity meets Crank fever dream. Yet perhaps I get ahead of myself.

We’re introduced to Erik Heller (Eric Bana) out in the isolated snowy wilderness, raising his daughter Hanna (Saoirse “Sursha” Ronan) in the usual home-school topics of hunting, hand to hand combat, marksmanship, y’know, all the usual activities for a growing teenager. It’s clear from the off that something is unusual about this situation – after all, there’s normally little need for teenagers to memorise so detailed a cover identity unless perhaps they’re attempting to bamboozle an off-licence assistant.

It transpires that the Hellers escaped to the wilds after CIA bigwig Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett) ordered their deaths, successfully in the case of Hanna’s mother. With Hanna now having grown and proven to be sufficiently levelled in the bad-ass skill categories, Eric gives a rather unusual gift to Hanna – a transponder that will reveal their location to those who have been looking for them, which will kick off their frankly poorly detailed plan to get a measure of revenge for Hanna’s mother and see Marissa pay. Erik heads off on the run, and Hanna waits to meet the capture squad.

It’s pretty hard to say if that goes according to their plan – I rather assume not, as after Hanna’s taken to a CIA black site for interrogation, which proves fatal fro most of that base’s staff and the poor chick pretending to be Marissa, Hanna makes good her escape only to have Marissa sic the uniquely tailored assassin Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his skinhead henchmen on Hanna’s trail.

This leads to a fairly unique trail of violence across Europe, with Isaacs being rather unpleasant to the trail of people who show kindness to Hanna on her trek to Germany at a pre-arranged meeting point with Erik, where all these moving parts meet in a rather final way for most of them. This potted recap rather minimises the dizzying array of locations and set-pieces that it takes to get there, all thrown at you at a frenetic pace.

Almost too frenetic for its own good, in fact. I dimly really watching this on release and being rather overwhelmed by it all, and I think our general reaction was somewhere in the region of “meh”. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this a great deal more on second viewing, perhaps because I was pre-warned as to quite how quirky, and in many places, outright silly it is.

There’s still some moments where the dramatic elements are a little tough to reconcile with the high concept nature of both the action sequences and the revelations about Hanna’s origins, which I’m sure surprises no one to find out there’s something unusual about. It’s not so much the actors’ fault – Bana and Ronan have as believable a relationship and reactions as you could expect them to have, considering, but the drama does get undercut by the over-arching daftness of the plot, and on occasions I’m left wishing they’d played that rather less straight.

But, as alluded to earlier, we already have that film, and it’s Crank and Crank 2: High Voltage. Visually, at least, it’s not a million miles away from those two masterpieces of stupidity, which I intend as a high compliment, and Hanna‘s marginally more grounded action scenes are just as enjoyable as they waltz though some arresting and unique locations.

Special mention must also be made of the Chemical Brother’s pounding soundtrack, which is very well integrated into the movie and provides a real driving heartbeat for many essential sequences in the film, edited together very well with the action indeed. Actually, on this second viewing the only thing that annoyed me this time around was Blanchett’s rather broad Southern accent which bordered on parody.

A small point, and not significant in the grand scheme of things. I’m glad I revisited this, as I’m much happier recommending it this time around than I was on first view.