Film Review: Hanna

Hanna is a gem of a movie. Those who question whether the premise of a child assassin can be fun really need to see this film.

Sixteen-year-old Hanna lives with her father Erik in a very remote part of Finland. Former CIA agent Erik has raised his daughter like a soldier; training and teaching her everyday until she is ready to embark on her mission. Hanna must travel through a world she has never known, while being tailed by agents on a mission to capture her…

Hanna is an enjoyable film precisely because it does not take itself too seriously. The film begins sombre enough, yet finds amusement after the first section, which is carried through the rest of the duration. It is precisely the sort of attitude that absurdist thrillers should be produced with; Salt and others should take note. Hanna could have very easily taken a more serious route, but thankfully director Joe Wright does not attempt to elevate the film above its station as a fun action thriller.

The action sequences work well. The pacing in Hanna is also great, the film never seems to let up. Even in the less frantic scenes, there is an underlying current of suspense. Screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr have done an admirable job in maintaining in aura of mystery about Hanna’s origins for much of the duration.

The editing and sound is too much of an onslaught during the escape sequence.  Thankfully this bombardment is only employed once; the other action sequences are less migraine-inducing. This aside, the film is well executed. The Chemical Brothers soundtrack complement the visuals exceptionally well, helping to propel momentum in key sequences.

Saoirse Ronan is excellent as Hanna. The young actress has already displayed promise in The Lovely Bones and The Way Back; Hanna takes Ronan another step closer to becoming one of the best young actresses of the moment. Cate Blanchett is a worthy adversary in the form of Marissa. The actress conveys the steely ruthlessness of the character. Eric Bana is suitably mysterious as his namesake Erik, while evil comes under the innocuous guise of Isaacs, played by Tom Hollander. All of the cast appear to be having fun with their respective roles, which shines through overall.

Hanna is a thoroughly enjoyable film that provides a benchmark which action thrillers should aim for. Few are likely to be left disappointed by Joe Wright’s offering.

Film Review: Unknown

Unknown functions pretty much as The Bourne Identity meets Salt, but sadly is closer to the latter in terms of quality. The film is mildly entertaining, if you can overlook the incredulity.

Dr Martin Harris arrives in Berlin with his wife, to attend a conference. After forgetting his briefcase at the airport, Martin heads back in a cab to collect it, but does not make it there after a car accident. When Martin wakes, he finds that someone else has taken his identity…

The narrative of Unknown is comparable to that of a television special or a made-for-TV movie. The plot appears hackneyed; it is easy to spot the numerous ideas borrowed from other films. The twists in Unknown become more incredulous as the film continues, requiring a healthy suspension of disbelief.

Where Unknown differentiates itself from similar television specials and cements itself as a Hollywood film is in the large-scale set pieces. The stunts and action sequences are well executed, and really help in injecting momentum into the film. As an action film, Unknown works well; it is a pity that a similar level of effort was not put into the script.

The narrative of Unknown is propped up by a number of twists. These are critical to a thriller such as this, but unfortunately each turn makes the film more ridiculous. What does not help is the fact that each revealing piece of information is accompanied by heightened music. It is as if the sound editor is attempting to compel the audience to feel shocked at the revelations. However, this does not have the desired effect, and at times can appear unintentionally comical.

As Martin Harris, Liam Neeson is a watchable protagonist. The role is definitely in Neeson’s comfort zone, and is never a stretch for him. January Jones appears artificial as Elizabeth Harris; she is never really that believable at any stage in the film. Diane Kruger is decent as unwitting taxi driver Gina, although her Eastern European accent is patchy. Frank Langella is underused in Unknown. The veteran actor has such presence; it is a shame that he was not given a meatier role.

Combining the plot of a TV movie with the aesthetics of a big-budget Hollywood film, Unknown fails to hit the target. It is by no means painful viewing, but it is unlikely to win much praise either. Recommended viewing for those who enjoyed Salt.

Film Review: Salt

Angelina Jolie dons a series of unconvincing wigs in this unconvincing action thriller. Salt is one of those films that should be good, but ultimately fails to live up to expectations.

Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent, is accused by a defector of being a Russian spy who intends to assassinate the president of Russia in New York. Salt goes on the run after finding her husband missing, with her colleagues in close pursuit…

Salt begins similarly to Minority Report; with an insider being accused of a crime they have yet to commit. With Tom Cruise originally slated to take the title role, the similarities could have continued. Instead, with Jolie at the helm, the film takes a series of twists, none of which are particularly convincing. Furthermore, the ending is rather unsatisfying and comes across as a tad presumptuous.

Phillip Noyce’s film attempts to keep the audience guessing with its twists and revelations (any detail on this would be too much of a spoiler). However, with every twist the film becomes more incredulous. Salt falls into the gap between realist thriller and popcorn action flick. On the hand the film takes itself too seriously to be enjoyed solely for its action angle, and on the other it aims at a degree of realism that depreciates with the film’s descent into disbelief.

Angelina Jolie does a fair job as protagonist Salt, although her artificial hair situation is somewhat distracting. Liev Schreiber is believable as Salt’s boss Ted Winter, although it is the type of role he has been cast in a number of times before. Chiwetel Ejiofor meanwhile is underused as Peabody, the most convincing character in the film.

The action sequences are well crafted, and add some much-needed excitement to proceedings. Even these, however, are marred by implausibility. Salt, for example, jumps from a bridge onto a metal container of a truck, yet is so little injured by this that she is able to make similar jumps moments later. Elsewhere, top CIA and security service agents are portrayed as wholly incompetent, despite the importance of their roles.

If you are looking films in a similar vein, Bourne Identity, Minority Report or The Manchurian Candidate are all superior choices to Salt.