14 April 2011

Joe Wright's Gift

Is Joe Wright the best director we have for first acts? If you sat down for only a half hour of Atonement or Hanna you'd think you were in for a masterpiece (WTT will give Wright a break and pretend The Soloist never happened).

His self-possessed little friend Saoirse Ronan (the catalyst Briony in Atonement) certainly helps Wright engage an audience. And Hanna, this quaint parable on the pleasures and perils of homeschooling, is refreshingly kinetic from its blood red opening credits.

The first 30 minutes overflow with memorable detail. An Andy Goldsworthy-worthy shot of ice floes in the shape of an eye. A close view of Hanna's painfully chapped lips. The contrast between Hanna and her father (Eric Bana, doing his best to play a badass Erik with a K) target-practicing antlers in the forest and antagonist Marissa Viegler (Cate Blanchett) vigorously employing electric dental tools before the wooded wallpaper in her mod apartment.

In her first brush with civilization, a shocking bit of violence (and its resulting spray) gains Hanna some very tastefully done blood freckles. As she continues her escape, the rock'n'roll Chemical Brothers score kicks in and the camera slides 360 degrees around black site tunnels.

Popping up through an unexpected manhole cover, Hanna still matches the landscape, her snow white furs exchanged for desert orange prison scrubs. She meets a charming young lady from England who immediately compares the speechless Hanna to M.I.A. and asks if she's from Sri Lanka too. The film's first misstep follows: a heavy-handed sequence in a Moroccan flophouse where Hanna is overwhelmed by an electric teapot, a fluorescent light and a television. That is to say: MODERNITY.

And then...increasingly confused plot points, unmotivated characters (e.g. German Tom Hollander wearing eyeliner), and an orgy of sub-Bourne chase scenes (we're living in a Paul Greengrass world, might as well accept it).

They say Hanna might be a franchise but I think Wright's next picture should be the start of three more projects, presented at once.

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