Thursday, December 22, 2011
Joe Wright is one of the more exciting directors around today, and I think he'll only get better. His debut, the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, was fantastic on its own terms (though weak compared to the masterful TV series from the 90s), his next, Atonement, was even better, a brilliant and tragic love story (its mix of the great old Hollywood war epics and subdued aura was perfect) that wrapped things up in a tidy two hours when it could have dragged for three, then he took a misstep with The Soloist (it's a film about good performances and emotion, really not a challenge for Wright), and then this year he wanders into new territory with a razor sharp thriller, Hanna. I immediately loved it. Saorise Ronan, who was so young and unlikable in Atonement, unleashes her badass side as a trained assassin raised in the wilderness by her father, Eric Bana. Hanna is a bit awkward, too, because she has no real clue of society's standards. So when she finally is allowed to leave the snowy woods and enter the real world, she really is a bit like an alien. There's a big plot going on here that I won't elaborate on except that this is essentially a cat and mouse game taken to a new level by Wright. It has great kinetic energy, thanks to the director's fluid camera, an electric score by the Chemical Brothers, and the intensity of Ronan's performance. Cate Blanchett is the other central player, a CIA operative obsessed with tracking down Hanna. She's the sort of person who becomes crazed by her need for perfection, pictured brilliantly by a scene where she brushes her teeth so intensely that her gums start to bleed. Hanna is uncompromising, audacious, and truly an original from Wright. As a side note, it also gives pro-life advocates another reason to convince pro-choicers to oppose abortion, if you can believe it.