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: The Way Back

Much like the varying climates featured in the film, The Way Back is both cold and dizzying. Whilst the struggles in The Way Back evoke much empathy, it is not as easy to connect with the various characters. The journey, meanwhile, is bewildering in its scale.

Imprisoned in a Siberian gulag after his wife is forced to testify against him, Janusz is faced with twenty years in incredibly harsh conditions. Together with a group of other inmates, Janusz escapes the prison, but is faced with a 4,000 mile trek to freedom…

Peter Weir’s film excels in depicting the brutality of the group’s epic journey. The major failure of The Way Back, however, is the lack of back-story assigned to some of the characters. From the opening sequence and later dialogue, it is clear what drives Janusz to embark on such a journey. Some of the other characters do not benefit from such an insight, and appear to be included to make up the numbers more than anything else. This results in some indifference to the plight of these supporting characters in the often dangerous situations.

The Way Back, nevertheless, exhibits the endurance of man, both physically and mentally. Janusz’s recurring vision of reaching his front door illustrates what motivates him to keep going, even in the harshest of conditions. Similarly, Mr Smith’s exhaustion is equally understandable, given the circumstances. It is the strength of Janusz’s spirit that gives the film its heart.

Weir adeptly illustrates the effect of the journey on his characters. From the considerations of cannibalism in times of starvation to the injuries felt by the group, The Way Back effectively conveys the encumbrance of such a trek. Particularly brutal are the physical afflictions suffered by characters; the blistered faces and swollen feet emphasise the toll of walking in extreme conditions.

Cinematographer Russell Boyd captures both the beauty and the savagery of the various locations. Long shots serve to illustrate the vastness of the landscape, as well as how far the men have to travel. Siberia appears cold and cruel with its subdued tones and dankness, while the dessert seems equally unbearable with frequent cuts to shots of the blazing sun.

Jim Sturgess offers a competent performance as Janusz, a thoroughly likeable character. Ed Harris adds weight as Mr Smith, the only character that appears to really evolve during the course of the film. Colin Farrell’s Valka adds a few moments of lightness, although the Russian accent is a little patchy.

Overall, The Way Back triumphs the big picture over the individual accomplishment. The film is for the most part absorbing, although it is the imagery rather than the personal stories that endures.