Tag Archives: Saoirse Ronan

Review: Hanna

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana

Director: Joe Wright

“What did your mother die of?”
“Three bullets.”

16-year-old Hanna has been brought up in the wilds of Finland by her father, Erik, and trained as an assassin to prepare her for the day she is ready to leave and explore the world outside. When that day comes, Hanna finds herself hunted by intelligence agent Marissa, who is intent on stopping Hanna discovering the truth about herself.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what an action movie made by a director previously known for period dramas and Jane Austen adaptations is like, here you go. Joe Wright, who gained much acclaim for 2007′s Atonement and not so much acclaim for 2005′s not-as-good-as-the-Colin-Firth-one version of Pride & Prejudice, wanders from his comfort zone for this bizarre mix of spy thriller and Grimm’s fairytale. Welcome to the weird world of Hanna.

As with last year’s George Clooney vehicle, The American, those who choose Hanna expecting a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute action flick are going to be a little disappointed, not to mention somewhat perplexed. Hanna seems intent on defying expectations from the off, but that doesn’t mean it fails within its chosen genre. It just does things a little differently. Rather than assault us with a barrage of action scenes, Hanna sprinkles them sparingly on an otherwise thoughtful and languid story. So, when events spring to life, accompanied by the pounding Chemical Brothers soundtrack, you are obliged to take notice.

Following the current trend for using Europe as the setting for espionage movies, Wright still manages to make his movie look different to the rest. From the opening moments in Hanna’s beautiful snowbound home to the bookend scene in an abandoned carnival in Berlin, Wright lends the movie an almost otherworldly quality. This is the world we know, but just a little off-kilter, a little surreal. It is the perfect palette for painting this dark fairytale.

Hanna’s ‘I Hate Ska’ T-shirt didn’t go down well in Camden

Saoirse Ronan is a commanding presence in the title role, able to display all the wonderment and emotion on Hanna’s face as she discovers the world, and then switch it all off when the killer emerges. Eric Bana is his usual likeable self as Hanna’s protective and equally dangerous father. Tom Hollander is frankly bizarre, and not very threatening, as a bleached blonde, possibly gay, rent-a-thug with neo-nazi skinheads in tow. However, the genuine threat comes from Blanchett, clearly enjoying herself in the ‘wicked witch’ role as the sinister, embittered and manipulative agent hunting Hanna down.

If there is a fault in Hanna, and unfortunately it’s a pretty big fault, it is one of style over substance. While the movie looks lovely, and clearly draws from a plethora of influences, it is strangely difficult to find any emotional attachment to the characters, especially Hanna herself. This often leaves you with one foot out of the picture, less invested in the fate of the characters than you should be. It’s an odd development for a director more recognised for character-driven pieces.

Still, for its beautiful visuals, cracking soundtrack and the simple pleasure of watching a 16-year-old girl opening a can of whup-ass on a bunch of tough guys, Hanna is well worth your time.

Rating – 3 Stars

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Review: The Way Back

Starring: Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell

Director: Peter Weir

It is 1941 and Polish political prisoner Janusz leads an escape from one of Josef Stalin’s Russian gulags in Siberia. The eclectic group go on the run and begin an epic 4,000 mile walk to India and freedom, determined to survive both the rough terrain, harsh elements and passage through the vast Communist territories ahead of them.

Director Peter Weir has often shown a fascination with tales of mankind against the elements, be it the Central American jungles of The Mosquito Coast or the unforgiving seas of Master and Commander, and he continues his theme with this, his first film for nearly eight years. The Way Back is based on the book The Long Walk by former Polish prisoner Sławomir Rawicz, who claimed the events were true, only for those claims to be later refuted, and someone else come forward and declare that the story was his. Whatever the veracity of the source material, The Way Back remains a fascinating tale.

Weir wastes no time in illustrating just why anyone would be driven to attempt such a journey. The gulags of Siberia were terrible places, where ‘enemies of the people’ were placed for the most arbitrary of reasons. Cold, dirty and ruthlessly run by criminal inmates, it is little wonder that Janusz, imprisoned on the basis of a confession from his own wife, decides to make a break for it. Enlisting the aid of several fellow prisoners, including Ed Harris as the American Mr. Smith and Colin Farrell as Russian thief Valka, his small band escape during a blizzard and, with little in the way of provisions, begin to head South on a journey that takes in the snows of Siberia, the Gobi desert and the Himalayas.

It is in capturing both the stunning beauty and cold disregard of these landscapes that Weir, with funding from National Geographic, exhibits his greatest strengths. This is a movie that, while celebrating the exuberance and determination of the human spirit, reminds us that we are very much at the mercy of the world we live in, passers-by in landscapes that can grind us to dust. As the group progress and fight starvation, exposure and exhaustion, it becomes clear that not everyone will make it to the end. But those that don’t are celebrated for dying as free men.

The sudden outbreak of vomiting left Ed glad he hadn’t had the fish course

As leader of the group by default, Jim Sturgess’ Janusz is a solid central presence, the will of the group when they falter. Ed Harris brings his usual gravitas and quiet dignity to proceedings and Colin Farrell finds the endearment in his violent, loutish Valka. Saoirse Ronan is perhaps a little underused as another Polish refugee the group pick up along the way, and there is sometimes a general lack of exploration of the characters on the whole. But when you have the land itself as your lead performer, this is understandable. The power of the story doesn’t suffer too much from it.

The Way Back seems like it was rather neglected on its initial cinema release. Hopefully with its DVD release it will pick up more of an audience. It deserves to.

Rating – 4 Stars