Later this year you will likely flock to your local movie theater to watch a young man become a super soldier at the height of WWII. This month you can see a somewhat less stylized but no less sensational story about a young girl who was born into a similar life of action and international adventure. Her name is Hanna and she can kill you with your own knife while it’s still in your hand.
Joe Wright (Atonement) directs this well-balanced coming of age story set within the cold and unforgiving world of assassins and espionage. The film follows the titular heroine who has lived a reclusive life in the forest with her rogue CIA-agent father on a vengeful mission that takes her all across the map. Trained to survive in the harshest conditions and fight like the spawn of Lara Croft and Rambo she is pursued by deadly adversaries as she inches closer to her primary target a ruthless CIA handler who had mysterious past dealings with her Dad all while discovering what life outside the woods is like.
While star Saoirse Ronan’s visceral turn is a marvel to observe so too is Wright’s. Like his protagonist he ventures into the unknown with this material taking the reigns of a film that couldn’t be any more foreign to him. Coming off of past projects grounded in romance and realism he forges new territory with Hanna delivering a fresh approach to the at-times tired spy thriller. He presents the major plot points of the story patiently delicately hinting at the big picture and always leaving you pining for more. Though the twist is ultimately predictable the fun part is putting the pieces of the puzzle together on your own. You’ll find more brilliance in his method by dissecting the picture piece by piece. His use of sound in both the film’s abstract score (from the sorely missed Chemical Brothers) and its effects which phase in and out at calculated points is in part a cinematic experiment that plays with perception in ways that audiences may not have experienced in a mainstream movie. There are also a few visual motifs in select scenes (most notably a killer fight sequence that ends with Eric Bana exterminating a handful of Agency henchman) that tell a parallel visual tale to supplement the narrative.
Thematically Hanna is even more complex. Screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr explore the limitations of a disconnected mind in their Black List-certified script giving their curious character the opportunity to learn much about society and her self while hitchhiking across continents. Of greater significance is the culture clash of Western materialism and Eastern minimalism manifested in the form of a British family traveling abroad that Hanna befriends (the young daughter played by Jessica Barden is a poster child for consumerism) and the contrast between Cate Blanchett’s Marissa Wiegler and Bana’s Erik Heller.
Provoking thought while providing plentiful doses of popcorn entertainment the film works on so many levels and is a unique entry in the collective canon of assassin-on-the-run flicks. Its story is far from groundbreaking but Wright’s surreal visuals and anti-establishment attitude make Hanna a radically original action experience.
Welcome to My Best Friend’s Four Scottish Weddings and No Funeral. Indeed Made of Honor borrows heavily from both films which naturally leaves no surprises. Patrick Dempsey plays Tom a sexy successful guy who has all the luck with the ladies. His male friends (Kadeem Hardison Richmond Arquette Chris Messina) all envy him but Tom’s one constant in his life is his best friend Hannah (Monaghan). He doesn’t ever have to worry about wooing her; he can just be himself. But when Hannah goes overseas to Scotland on a six-week business trip Tom is stunned to realize how empty his life is without her. So he decides to come clean and tell her how she feels once she gets back--except she returns engaged to a Scottish duke (Kevin McKidd) who is just about the most perfect guy there is. D’oh! What’s a boy to do but break up the girl’s wedding and win her for himself? There’s no doubt Dempsey has become the poster boy for romantic comedies what with his turn in Enchanted and his McDreamy role on Grey's Anatomy. Problem is he generally never offers anything more than his handsome face leaving all the heavy lifting to his leading ladies i.e. Enchanted’s Amy Adams and now Honor’s Monaghan. This lovely actress who has proven herself to be more than just an ingénue in films such as Gone Baby Gone and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has a natural effervescence which exudes in just about anything she does. She does everything in her power to drum up chemistry with the bland Dempsey--and we’re thankful for her effort. McKidd best known for playing the kick-ass Roman solider Lucius Vorenus on HBO's Rome has very little to do as the Scottish stud but effectively comes across as near-perfect. And Sydney Pollack also does a nice turn as Tom’s oft-married dad who gives his foolish son some sage words of advice. Made of Honor may be a derivative yawner but director Paul Weiland (City Slickers II) tries his best to inject some personality into the proceedings. The prelude to the wedding in Scotland is sort of fun. Us lowly Americans are introduced to many interesting Scottish customs like throwing tree trunks in a competition of strength--in kilts no less. Other than that there really isn’t anything going on of any major note. Honor’s only chance to make something of itself is if the ladies head into a different theater while their male companions go see Iron Man.