New On the DVD Shelves: Hanna (2011)

All Kansas City Public Library locations will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 26, and will remain closed all day Thursday, November 27, for Thanksgiving.

Among the higher profile DVD arrivals on the Library’s shelves this month is Hanna, the fourth movie by British director Joe Wright.

Wright, of course, wowed us with the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice, followed it up with the multiple Oscar-nominated Atonement and then moved on to homelessness in LA with the criminally underappreciated The Soloist (how can a film with both Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx be so under everybody’s radar?).

After all that serious stuff Wright can be excused for wanting to do something a bit lighter. The result is Hanna, with Atonement star Saoirise Ronan (The Lovely Bones) playing a 15-year-old girl reared from infancy to be a killing machine.

That almost sounds like the description of a Roger Corman exploitation picture, and in a way it is, only with oodles of class and top-notch production values.

We meet Hanna as a fur-clad adolescent living in Arctic isolation with her “father,” Erik (Eric Bana). Under his tutelage she has become an expert hunter and martial artist. Despite having never walked more than a few miles from their cabin in the woods, Hanna is fluent in several languages. Erik has taught her how to survive in a civilized world she’s never seen.
All this has been so he can exact revenge on the rogue CIA officer (Cate Blanchett) who killed Hanna’s mother and would have killed the baby, too, if Erik hadn’t fled with her to this snowy exile.

Now it’s time for Hanna’s training to be put to use. She triggers an electronic signal, and soon helicopters filled with armed men have swept down to take her to a subterranean intelligence center somewhere in North Africa.

One of the film’s best sequences finds the adolescent girl ruthlessly and efficiently killing several of her captors to escape. And check out the long, continuous take in which Bana’s character is attacked by agents on a subway platform. Great stuff.

In his filmmaker’s commentary, Wright says he was concerned that Hanna might mix up too many styles and tones.

In fact he’s put his finger on the movie’s main drawback...it’s an uneven melding of serious themes with sometimes forced humor (Blanchett’s neurotic villain is right up there with Gary Oldman for over-the-top emoting).

But individual scenes in Hanna work extremely well and the acting is surprisingly solid (especially from 16-year-old Ronan, who is developing into one of the world’s great actresses right before our eyes).

And production-wise, Hanna is a consistent eye-opener. I mean, this is one gorgeous-looking movie.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He's married to the former Ellen Vaughan; they are the proud parents of LA-based comedian, writer, director and TV personality Blair Butler. He used to be a dog person but now lives with two cats, thus demonstrating the flexibility of the human condition.

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