My descent into the expansive chasm of cinephilia began when I was just a wee lad, but really picked up speed in the mid 90s with films like Buffalo 66, Rushmore & Kicking and Screaming. There was one film in particular that stood above the others in its ability to elicit goosebumps on the skin of this film nerd — Run Lola Run. At the time I hadn’t seen anything like it: the camera work, the techno soundtrack, mixture of animation, intermingled story-lines and deep meaning blew my embryonic mind out of the water.
There have been films since that have captured my celluloid heart but Run Lola Run holds tight in a special compartment reserved only for films that carry deep significance. I have seen Run Lola Run’s impact in many contemporary films, but none as much as in Hanna. I don’t know if Joe Wright was influenced by Tom Tykwer’s film or not, but the two movies share a bond of sisterhood in their pulsing soundtracks, strong feminine heroes and riveting camera work.
Hanna begins quietly. Handmade, deer-pelt shoes barely crunch the snow beneath them, as our eponymous protagonist hunts her prey. Joe Wright and his cinematographer (Alwin H. Kuchler) set the table with slow, canted camera movements, extreme close-ups of pupils dilating — the smallest of gestures showing the deepest of focus. An arrow springs from nowhere and Hanna’s victim stutters, wounded but not dead. The chase is on and doesn’t stop until the credits roll.
The basic premise is simple, Hanna has been secluded from the world by her father (Eric Bana). Relegated to a snowy wilderness, far from the gazing eyes of humanity, she’s taught to be a most elite killing machine. All for her own safety, of course, because there will come a time when she’ll need every iota of knowledge bestowed upon her.
The richness of the characters in Hanna cannot be underestimated. Cate Blanchett plays Marissa a CIA agent with a shady past who is at first the prey and then becomes the hunter. Everything from Marissa’s scary thick accent to her fastidious dental hygiene practices paint a portrait of a woman on the loose end of sanity. But the most intriguing character is the man Marissa hires to track Hanna down. In one of my favorite scenes of 2011, Marissa meets Isaacs (Tom Hollander) in a sort of fantasy island, euro, gentleman’s club. The setting is creepy, bizarre, and surreal which makes the calm nature and yacht club attire of Isaacs even more unsettling.
I can’t decide what I enjoyed more, the brilliant photography or the dead accurate aural assault of the Chemical Brothers soundtrack. Beat for beat, the score is pitch perfect. The music effortlessly transitions from soothing synth to a brutal orchestral crescendo at the snap of a finger. The Chemical Brothers employ a host of different styles which range from the tinkering of music boxes to a plunking Arabian sitar. They all flow together, blanketing the film in one of the best and most original scores in recent memory. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you experience the shipping container scene.
This visual style of Hanna doesn’t come as a total surprise. Joe Wright’s previous films have all had beautiful photography, especially Atonement, It’s a crime that didn’t receive the Oscar for cinematography, but that was a particularly sick year for amazing looking films. (There Will Be Blood (Robert Elswit) beat out two of Deakin’s films, Assassination of Jesse James… and No Country for Old Men.)
Hanna is exactly the reason I get excited about film. Sure, its La Femme Nikita crossed with Bourne Identity plot isn’t exactly treading new ground, but who cares, it’s an excuse to show us what can be done when you don’t follow the boring action-picture paradigm we see churned out in Hollywood every week. Film is a visual medium and Joe Wright and company are painting with brushes yet undiscovered by most artists.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more