Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hanna; not as thrilling as it should be

Lets see. You get yourself Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana, plus a bunch of talented English actors, and you give them to Joe Wright, and tell them to make a spy movie. And somehow, you chunk out Hanna, which a lot of the time struck me as the kind of movie Michael Bay would make if he wasn't allowed to use explosions. It's very good looking, but it doesn't make a lick of sense. And if you're not going to make a lick of sense, you really do need to batter the audience's critical faculties into acquiescence with firepower; good acting is only going to make the problem worse.

Sometimes I wonder what's going through people's heads when they cast movies. Eric Bana is an Australian, and he's playing a German. Cate Blanchett is an Australian, and she's playing an American with a German name and an accent that moves between Louisiana and Lubeck almost at random. And Saoirse Ronan is Irish and playing someone who grew up in a forest twenty miles south of the Arctic circle with only a German speaking Eric Bana for company; hell if I even know what the right accent for THAT is. Everyone's great, but none of it makes an awful lot of sense. In a fast moving thriller movie, you wouldn't have time to notice those problems, but Hanna is a slow moving movie, even when Hanna herself is running full tilt.

The first big thing you have to buy into is that Eric Bana is for some reason raising his kid to be a perfect killer in a forest twenty miles south of the Arctic circle. For why? Hell if I know, but it seems to be a deep seated plan to kill Cate Blanchett's character. Who could do with a whole lot of killing, but that just leaves me wondering why Eric waited so long. So that his daughter could do it? How does that make the world a better place for anyone? Anyhow, she comes of age and decides to activate the transponder that will tell Blanchett where she is so that she can come and get her and set off the whole complicated revenge scheme. And I'm just sitting there asking myself why would anyone have a transponder that specifically does that? Why would anyone be still listening out for it fourteen years later? As always, when you have time to ask these questions, there's something wrong. Either rewrite the plan, or throw more action at the audience.

It's not that the people behind the movie don't know how to run an action scene; the bits where Hanna gets clear of the improbable underground base in Morocco are really good action beats (except that they've been done just as well or better in a bunch of Luc Besson movies), it's more that they seem to think that such things are beneath them and the stellar cast they've been at such trouble to get hold of. Look, they seem to be saying, we've made a lovely looking movie, full of blatant symbolism and reflections on our modern world, and isn't Saoirse Ronan luminous and talented? Yup. All true. But it's actually a very stupid movie when it thinks it's being a very intelligent one. Hanna doesn't know what electricity really does since she's grown up in a forest, but when a TV set in a cheap hotel panics her, she knows that the remote control ought to make it work. And later on, she knows how to use Google, because that's the convenient way to info-dump a backstory in a modern movie these days. Bah.

It's such a shame. Everyone is doing their very damned best, but it just doesn't work.

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