The trailer showed a lot of style and what looked to be a rather cool story, and coupled with the people involved in front of and behind the camera, it was on my must see list. Bring it to Blu-ray with a special edition steel box and you can add to that the potential of a superb picture, great sound and tons of extras.
The Blu-ray special edition promised a lot, and unfortunately for me it's going to have to keep doing that as I wasn't lucky enough to get my hands on a Blu-ray copy and instead received the DVD. Ah well, I got the film to review, that's one thing.
Hanna is a film packed with style. You can see it and hear it in every aspect of the film from the cinematography to the soundtrack, from the editing of the film and the audio to the choice of cameras and location. You can see and hear the style oozing out of every single scene, it feels as though every aspect of the film has been considered and a concerted effort has been made to deliver something that doesn't follow the standard path for such a film, but also ensuring that it isn't different just for the sake of standing out and ensuring that everything fits together.
There is a somewhat off-kilter feel to the film that permeates into many of the scenes, through the cinematography, editing and soundtrack, but it doesn't detract from the film or take the story to far from reality. Some of the choices heighten the abilities of Hanna during the fight and chase scenes and are rather clever ways to make her appear stronger, faster and far more capable than the adults around her without resorting to the usual tricks that an action film would take, Bourne for example.
This is an aspect of the film that I really only appreciated on a second viewing, another was the editing which cuts out a lot of unnecessary movement and storytelling between and even during scenes. It's not like an action fast cut, and you actually see fight sequences and follow them really well; it just helps to keep the pace moving and the style fresh.
The first time I watched the film I felt caught up in the story and the characters, but the second time around I really noticed how sparse and efficient the film is in telling the story both visually and in terms of the dialogue.
Mind you there are a couple of scenes where the film does stray into the slightly strange, and it's most noticeable at the end of the film where we mix an almost fantasy world, seemingly from landscape of Hanna's mind, with the reality of the world she's been released into. There are some very odd locations and sets that start to appear as the characters arrive in an abandoned amusement park, and some of the symbolism does sit out from the film a little, but the story keeps going with all the same style and pace, and the audio matches some of these more odd moments very well.
The story is multi-layered and there are a few distinct threads that pull together to draw you into it. There's the story about a girl experiencing life and growing up that had me captured for a portion of the film where we see Hanna dealing with the new world and growing with her experiences. Yet the thriller and action is never far behind and slowly builds to take over and command the film later on, and the fact that we spend so much time growing up with Hanna on screen, knowing what she is and what she is capable of from the opening, makes the rest of the story so much more dramatic and personal.
Another strong aspect of the story is the way that it is revealed to us in snapshots, in short flashbacks that Hanna experiences, or that connect Hanna to the story. We're never ahead of her in terms of understanding what is happening, and in fact we're behind her in some areas, an aspect of thrillers that I really love. For me this is a powerful feature of the best thrillers out there, ones that reveal pieces of the story through the characters and you never feel as though the film is telling you what is happening, or explaining the background and history to get it over with. Even when a scene arrives that is dealing with Hanna's history we only see a piece of it, enough to give us some understanding, but never enough to explain it all. There are many mysteries that remain in the smallest of details to the largest of plot devices.
I did really enjoy how the story plays out, how Hanna unravels her story but never completely and how she adapts in her own way to the real world, and ultimately how she copes with her mission and becoming the hunted. However I think the most enjoyable aspect for me were the characters and the performances from the actors and actresses involved.
Soairse Ronan is pretty fantastic in the film. She's incredibly hypnotic and I was mesmerised by her for much of the film, even scenes which just show a close up of her experiencing things for the first time you see the smallest of reactions and her innocent expressions. Joe Wright does apply the idea of being sparse with her the most and you can see the performance in her eyes for much of the film, but there's never too little to connect with her character and feel sympathetic towards her. This film and this performance shows above all what a great actress she's going to be, and like Cate Blanchett is, Ronan has the capability to be a classic movie star and a powerful performer.
I'm surprised how much she leads the film but she never scene steals from any of the other characters. Eric Bana plays his character well, even though he doesn't have a lot of screen time there are some great moments with him, particularly the long tracking shot fight. Cate Blanchett has a great character too and she gives a lot through her facial performance as well, much like Ronan. There's a great scene where she is preparing her gun and the emotion in her face, betraying her actions makes you feel that there's so much more to the character that we just can't see.
Tom Hollander has a fantastic character and maybe, just maybe a little bit, they take it too far, but he has some great moments, outfits and a few really nice signatures. I just wish we'd seen a little more depth and back story to him than we did, and had more time for him to develop on screen.
If I was to criticise the film I think it would be the fact that we do miss out on some character storylines and connections, like that between the characters played by Blanchett and Bana, however I do think that we could so easily fall into the realm of being spoon fed too much information and return to the standard modern action thriller.
Dolby Digital 5.1
The audio sounded a little muffled to begin with, I'm not sure if this was a stylistic choice or whether it was the copied review disc I received, but it didn't quite sound right on the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It did change quite quickly though and it wasn't long before I had forgotten the opening oddities. Mind you it still never took full advantage of the 5.1 available to it. However it was a strong soundtrack that did take over from the film in a few places and did seem at odd with the scenes at times.
The picture was strong and never faltered, delivering perfectly well throughout the film. The lighting and colouring are used well throughout the film ranging from dull and muted to some bright and contrast rich scenes near the end, all look great on an upscale player.
It is quite obvious why the ending is not the ending we see in the film as it didn't feel like it fitted in anywhere, didn't add anything, and was actually a little confusing. That said it would have been nice to see some director's commentary and discussion for this so we could understand the decisions for it and perhaps why there was thought of an alternate ending in the first place.
There are two very short sequences and it's easy to see why they were left out, again there's no commentary or discussion from the director.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Escape from Camp G:
This is a far too short review of the chase sequence where Hanna escapes from the secret location she's been held in. There's just not enough of it to be honest. Although we do get Joe Wright talking through the scene I just wanted more depth and examination of the shooting methods and behind the scenes details.
Audio Commentary from Joe Wright:
Joe Wright's commentary does provide a lot of interesting behind the scenes information and details on his stylistic choices and the reasons why scenes were they way we see them. He also explains certain story decisions as well as actor and actress choices in performance. It does turn out to be an interesting commentary but he does struggle for things to say a little too much and sometimes you do have to stick with it to get to the good stuff.
Hanna is a great film. It tells a story you may have felt you've seen before in a pretty unique style that delivers some great scenes. This isn't just an action film though, and there are other aspects to the story such as Hanna experiencing the world for the very first time. It's here where we see the power of Saoirse Ronan and her fantastic chemistry with the camera. She's mesmerising and is backed by three excellent actors who all hold strong roles too.
The story is strong and contains some interesting turns from the norm told through a strong sense of stylish and well paced film-making, bold use of the camera, strong, sparse editing and equally strong sound design, not to mention the Chemical Brothers soundtrack.
There are many aspects you'll enjoy about this film, and I'd definitely recommend it. I'd almost suggest a sequel for it, but I' be too scared it would change where my mind has taken Hanna after this story completes.
Hanna is available on DVD, Blu-ray which comes with a DVD and digital version, or a Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook with extras and the DVD and digital versions too. The latter sounds by far the better packed with additional featurettes, and the DVD feels a little sparse in comparison.