take them both in a perfect direction [hanna]

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Beginnings

This movie starts off awfully slow.

And this isn’t a bad thing.

See, in a character-driven action film, you need to develop the characters before you can get into the action. It’s why one precedes the other.

The film starts off in an arctic forest, with Saoirse (Sur-Shuh [thanks IMDB!]) Ronan hunting down an elk–tracking it through the trees, shooting it with an arrow, then chasing it down to make sure it dies in the snow.

When she reaches the animal and sees it’s still alive, she looks at it and says, “I just missed your heart.”

Then pulls out a gun and shoots the damn thing. Cue title card: HANNA.

As she’s degutting the animal, Eric Bana’s character, Erik Heller, sneaks up behind her and proclaims, “You’re dead.”

She attacks him, nearly snapping his neck, then is forced to drag the animal back all by herself.

When they get back to the cabin, you begin to realize just how truly isolated her life is. No electricity, no heat except for the fire, no culture.

The latter one is key because that’s what the film is truly about. Hanna’s mission is to kill Marissa Viegler. But what she wasn’t prepared for was actual, y’know, human interaction. She’s been trained to kill, not to be cordial.

It’s when they decide to flip the switch and allow her to come find them that the movie really kicks into high gear.

See, what’s really interesting is the way that they made Ronan look as albino as possible. They died her hair and eyebrows platinum blonde, kept her skin as white as possible, helping her to almost merge and become opaque in the forest. Because the forest is home and she has adapted to it. But the entire Earth is not an Arctic Forest.

So when she escapes from a military base, and emerges into the desert, it’s an incredible shock because, now, for the first time, she is out of her element. Against the desert backdrop, dressed all in orange, she stands out. Imagine seeing a polar bear in the desert. It’s like that.

From that point on, she is constantly dealing with trying to figure out how to deal with civilians who don’t, for once, want to kill her.

At this point, the family she hitchhikes across Morocco with is introduced–as well as her first friend, a British girl named Sophie who is obsessed with everything an actual 15-year-old girl should be obsessed with (boys, pop culture, makeup, clothes, parents being crazy).

When we first meet her, she begins to go off on a tangent about how “It’s okay if you can’t speak English. MIA couldn’t speak English til she was 8. And now she’s a huge pop star. So it’s okay if you can’t speak English.”

She, Sophie, tends to steal every scene she’s in simply because of how funny she is.

And so does her younger brother Max.

And her parents.

In fact, what’s mind blowing is that the entire family that she hitchhikes with isn’t simply there to get the plot forward, they’re fully developed characters with quirks, quiet problems, and happy moments.

The whole subplot about this family could’ve been glossed over as having them simply there as plot devices but, instead, they get just as much attention as everyone else, and even get dragged into it. They not only move our main character both physically and emotionally, they propel the film itself into the third act.

But the Action–And the Chemical Brothers–Steal the Show…

Quite honestly, I could write a 1,000 words simply on the characters in this film and how well acted and well written and well directed they are.

About how Cate Blanchett is shown cleaning her teeth to the point of bleeding to show just how exacting and perfect she requires everything to be.

About how Eric Bana wants desperately to be a good father in spite of all the secrets, the murder, and the general ephemera that comes with being an international spy on the lam.

But what I want to really, really, talk about are the action sequences. I can’t remember the last film I saw that used its sets and its lighting and its camera work to so well contextualize or stylize the beatdowns.

Choreographing fight scenes seems to have fallen to the wayside in favor, most of the time, of putting the camera super close and shoving each other around.

(Aside: This is another reason why I think Fast Five was getting such good reviews. The action sequences kick some serious, serious, ass without being confusing)

Instead, here, the choreography of the fight scenes is built around flashing lights, dark hallways, pillars, and the Chemical Brothers.

In one sequence, done in one long SteadiCam shot, Erik gets off a bus, walks through the bus terminal, the camera gliding around and revealing the danger lurking behind each corner, then down escalator and into a pillar-filled underground station, kills about five people, then runs off. Seriously. It’s one long take. It’s fucking incredible the way that they were able to choreograph buses, traffic, pedestrians, a subway station, five deaths, and a walkie talkie conversation into one single take.

And then there’s the Chemical Brothers.

They did what I was hoping Daft Punk would do with Tron Legacy–make a score so loud and ass kicking that I just had to see it a second time.

Because I have to admit that, yea, the score was probably the biggest reason I saw this film a second time.

What’s incredibly interesting about it, too, is that their bass-thumping rave-score is built out of really interesting diegetic soundscapes. The songs start and end, and get heightened, by the sound design of the action sequence. Gun shots occur on beat. Foot steps nearly in rhythm. They are building the score out of the existing sounds in the scene and, as a result, does a lot in helping express just how Hanna’s senses are adapting to these incredibly new surroundings.

And I think that’s what I like about using electronica/house music as a score. It’s always been a musical genre that felt like it needed some kind of an accompaniment. Dancing, ecstasy, what have you. It’s not the type of music you can sit and simply listen to.

The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk have proven that film, too, is a great accompaniment to the generally grating 9-minute songs of “thump thump thump ‘Get your ass on the floor!’ thump thump thump thump.”

Ok, Let’s Try to Wrap this Goddamn Thing Up

When Joe Wright released Atonement, I was incredibly disappointed. It seemed like it was gonna be really good. But it wasn’t. The characters were superb, but the movie was overall forgettable.

But, with this film, you can bet your ass I’ll be in the seat for his next film.

There’s way, way more about this movie that I could talk about (The scene of Terry Gilliam-like “madness of the mundane;” the ending; the plot twists, etc), but, y’know, I really try to keep these things to about 1,000 words or less, so maybe when the DVD comes out there will be a part 2, and we can really dig in to just how layered and fantastic this movie is.

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