(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reverend's Review: Hanna-Do

Cate Blanchett is great as one of the wickedest witches since Margaret Hamilton in the marvelous fairy tale/shoot-'em-up hybrid Hanna, opening today nationwide from Focus Features. Though not a literal sorceress, Blanchett's amoral Marissa Wiegler is -- like the green-skinned villainess in The Wizard of Oz -- obsessed with shoes and a teenaged girl who holds the key to her potential undoing. As a modern day government agent, Marissa wields technology and a gun rather than a broom as she stops at nothing to protect classified secrets involving in-utero genetic manipulation.

The action in Hanna (and action is the operative word here) begins in a seemingly idyllic if snow-laden forest where 16-year old Hanna lives, hunts and practices impressive feats of self-defense with her father, Erik. Hanna is played with startling aplomb by Saoirse Ronan (an Oscar nominee for 2007's Atonement), and the always worth-watching Eric Bana (Star Trek) is her loving dad. It is revealed early on that Hanna is being trained for a seemingly inevitable showdown with Marissa.

Hanna starts the clock ticking when she knowingly triggers the device that will alert Marissa to her presence. You see, Hanna and her father are the sole survivors of a defunct US military project, headed by Marissa, to create future supersoldiers by tampering with infants' DNA. As former head of the project, Marissa has destroyed all other "evidence" of her work. She only has to check Hanna off her list before she can get back to more pressing matters, like brushing and scraping her teeth until they bleed.

With a sadistic, polysexual pied piper (a super creepy Tom Hollander, best known from the Pirates of the Caribbean series) and his skinhead henchmen at her employ, Marissa chases Hanna from Finland to Morocco to Germany. Along her Snow White-ish or Little Red Riding Hood-esque odyssey to reunite with Erik, Hanna meets a kindly British family (headed by Jason Flemying and Olivia Williams) and experiences friendship for the first time in her sheltered life with their precocious daughter, Sophie (a wonderful Jessica Barden, who at one point declares "I think I'd like to be a lesbian, but not one of those fat ones"). Other revelations await Hanna as she rushes headlong into a climactic encounter with Marissa and her big bad wolves at, appropriately enough, a derelict theme park inspired by the Brothers Grimm's classic stories.

Hanna is directed by Joe Wright, who has been more at home with costume dramas such as Atonement and the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice and whose last, more contemporary film, The Soloist, flopped. Using Seth Lochhead and David Farr's smart screenplay as a starting point and backed by a pulse-pounding score by techno's The Chemical Brothers, Wright successfully melds the seemingly disparate genres of sci-fi fantasy and conspiracy action-adventure. Some of the fairy tale references get heavy handed, especially during Hanna and Marissa's final confrontation. Still, the makers of recent box office disaster Red Riding Hood will undoubtedly wish their movie had been as popular as Hanna will likely become. It also struck me that Wright could be an excellent choice to direct a future James Bond epic.

I can't close without questioning the PG-13 rating given Hanna by the good ol' arbiters of morality at the MPAA. There is more than enough bloodshed (graphic and implied) here to warrant an R rating, and it is all the more disturbing because much of the violence is wrought by a teen. Yet the MPAA doesn't hesitate to slap inspirational Academy Award-winner The King's Speech with an R rating (at least before it was re-edited) due to one brief scene involving profanity uttered by a royal adult. I think it's time to sic Blanchett's image-conscious wicked witch/government tool on those who rate the movies.

Reverend's Rating: A-

UPDATE: Hanna is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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