Movies: Hanna | Arts & Culture

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Movies: Hanna
Arts & Culture
Movies:  Hanna

“The Adjustment Bureau” was good.  “Source Code” was better.  “Hanna” is the best of the current crop of skillfully-made action movies. 

It’s been around for a few weeks, but if you’re an action fan, you owe it to yourself to see this one before it leaves the big screen. 

It’s a violent, modern-day fairy tale, with a plucky young girl fighting for her life against a host of wicked wolves, chief among them a renegade CIA agent, played by Cate Blanchett, slipping into and out of a southern accent.  (We know she’s a baddie the moment we see her brushing her big, scary teeth in an enlargement mirror.)

Directed by Joe Wright (best known for “Atonement,” but also the director of “The Soloist”), “Hanna” features sensational production design by Sarah Greenwood, who also laid out “Atonement” and “Sherlock Holmes”;   gorgeous cinematography by Alwin Kuchler, who also shot “Morning Glory” and the beautiful “Morvern Callar”:  and a pulse-pounding techno score by the Chemical Brothers. 

Hanna is played by 17-year old Saorise Ronan (the young Briony in “Atonement” and the murdered girl in “The Lovely Bones”).  Hanna’s been raised in the forests of Finland by her father Erik (Eric Bana, so great in the little-appreciated “Munich”).  Much like Kato in the “Pink Panther” movies, he is constantly pouncing on his daughter to hone her defensive skills (which are clearly better developed than those of Inspector Clouseau).

One night, when US special ops soldiers come calling, Erik slips away, leaving Hanna at their mercy -- but not for long.   With the girl now on the run, the action sweeps us from frozen Finland to the desert of Morocco, then on to Spain and eventually Berlin.   We watch as Hanna, who has been raised with an encyclopedic knowledge of the world but little direct experience (other than with firearms), makes a range of discoveries, including electricity, music, the shower -- and one amorous young Spaniard. 

Along the way, she’s befriended by some amiable hippy-dippy tourists, who give her another awakening, to the warmth of family.  But Hanna’s flight will inevitably lead her to Berlin, where her enemies will pursue her through an abandoned amusement park --  right into the mouth of a wolf.  Get it?

The ethereal blonde, neck-snapping character of Hanna may be a cinematic descendant of such earlier hard girls as Mathilda in “The Professional” and Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass,”  but she is clearly closer related to Jason Bourne.  Her journey from North Africa to northern Europe is not only a search for her father but also a quest for her own identity -- with Cate Blanchett’s evil Marissa trying to expunge her very existence.  To accomplish that, she enlists the services of some nasty German skinheads, led by the uber-decadent Isaacs (Tom Hollander) who whistles as he works.

Who knew that the guy who made “Atonement” had all these action movie chops in him?  “Hanna” is a compelling, fast-moving drama, made even better by the colorful locales in which it was filmed.  (One of my favorites was an establishing shot of a Moroccan town, in which an entire herd of camels is gathered.)  This is truly a unique and imaginative action flick.

It’s rated PG-13 for some explicit violence (but no sex).  I give it a B-Plus.

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