Trailers are interesting vehicles for promoting a movie. They create a first impression, good or bad, that once in place is extremely difficult to exorcise. As such, a movie can do itself a great credit by hitting audiences with a trailer that demonstrates just how much of what they want is in the flick, but they can often (and more often than not) also expose how little the movie matches with your tastes. Sometimes it merely depends on how much of the movie they show.
I was struck, upon sitting down to view Hanna, at the difference between my current experience and the trailer for Fast Five, a The Fast and the Furious penta-sequel which I had never heard of and suppose is coming soon. While the trailer for Hanna acquired my attention with its keen sense of intrigue, the trailer for Fast Five was enough for me. The Fast Five trailer basically outlined the plot and oversold an “awesome” scene in which the charcters drive off a cliff and immediately break all rules of physics on the way down. They could have given that trailer some mystery had they cut the scene when the car was half-over the ledge about eight seconds prior. It was after seeing both ads that I realized something: I already had a love for Hanna because I had no assumptions.
Hanna is about a young girl being raised by her father in a log cabin in the sub-arctic. But as you might guess, this eponymous girl – played with a whimsical creepiness by Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones) – is unique: she is being trained as an assassin. When she is mature enough, her father (Erik Bana) sets her on a dangerous mission across Europe. Immediately on both of their trails is hard-edged CIA exec Marissa, played by a frosty Cate Blanchet (Elizabeth) and made all the more disturbing by the fact she looked exactly like my ex-boss.
The movie opens with some beautiful footage of dense forests and open expanses shrouded in snowfall, which is fitting because most of the film features exquisite geography. Both the cinematography and the soundtrack follow an on-and-off style approach, the scenes dictating the pacing. Action scenes are on – quick cuts, jumpy camera, pulsing electronica beats by none other than The Chemical Brothers – and more placid scenes are off – long shots, carefully-handled visuals, silence but for the Foley. On the whole it is on the mark, the action both intense and artistic.
The movie takes an intersting break about a third of the way in, as if the director knew the audience would want a breather, with Hanna’s travels bringing her in contact with a family of unlikely travel companions. It is the one unaccountably American moment in the movie, and manages to fit a few laughs where you do not expect any. That said, the plot’s heart-thudding pace loses a bit of its direction here and makes a few leaps too quickly, stretching its time between the father and Hanna in such a way as to seriously undercut Bana’s role to the realm of ‘secondary.’ It is important to know what his character is doing, but it is entirely apparent that the focus of the film should be on Hanna herself. As such, his scenes, including a parking lot scrap and excluding an apartment break-in, seem tacked on for excitement’s sake during a lull in the action. Despite this, Hanna concludes in a satisfying manner that leaves a lot open but smartly avoids dragging anything out.
Hanna is time well-spent. It is by no means a full or complete movie, but it is careful not to become schmaltzy and gives plenty of room to its main actors, all of whom perform more than admirably. It may seem like a segment in a much greater story of which we are only privy to the beginning, but I prefer to trust the writers and directors who know where the heart of their story lies and cut away the fat. Too often movies try to be more than they are – to impress with such intensity as to send them over the top (or, say, the cliff) – but Hanna is content to be a little piece of something elegant.