HANNA

 

HANNA

Written by Seth Lochhead & David Farr

Directed by Joe Wright

USA release date: April, 2011

 

Cast:

Saoirse Ronan

Cate Blanchett

Eric Bana

Tom Hollander

Olivia Williams

Jessica Barden

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: Holleran Company & Studio Babelsberg

Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Video: 

Aspect ratio: 2.40

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 50 GB

Feature Size: 17.4 GB

Bit Rate: High (30-40 Mbps)

Runtime: 111 minutes

Chapters: 20

 

Audio:

English DTS-MA HD 5.1

English DVS (Descriptive Audio)

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Feature Commentary by Director Joe Wright

• Adapt or Die - in HD (13:00)

• Central Intelligence Agency - in HD (8:45)

• Chemical Reaction - in HD (6:00)

  1. The Wide World of Hanna - in HD (2:00)

  2. Hanna Promo - in HD (2:10)

• Alternate Ending

• Deleted Scenes - in HD (3:40)

• Anatomy of a Scene - in HD (3:05)

• uHEAR

• Trailer

• pocket BLU

• BD-Live 2.0

• Digital Copy on-line

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray Case: BRD x 1

Street Date: June 7, 2011



The Movie : 8

Before launching into my customary critique I want to be clear that HANNA is an eminently rewatchable movie in most all the usual respects: story, production, characters, performance, photography, effects, music.  It has a number of engaging set pieces - one of them a knockout - and an absolutely riveting actress playing the heroine.  The screenplay has a problem – but more on that later.

 

Perhaps you’ve seen her in The Lovely Bones or Atonement.  HANNA is 16-year old Saoirse Ronan’s first action film (it’s director Joe Wright’s first as well).  Her natural red hair is now light blonde, complementing, rather than contrasting with her naturally pale Irish complexion, giving her an out of this world, almost ageless look.  Her ice-watery blue eyes look out into a strange new world, one that she has been only narrowly trained to face.  For most of her life she has been trained as an assassin and to survive in a hostile world that would keep her from her target.


     

 

Her trainer, for as long as she can remember, has been her father (Bana), who has hewn out a cabin from the forests of remotest Finland for him and his daughter.  Hanna is a smart girl and absorbs everything she can learn about the world outside the forest. Of course, there is no Internet, lest they be scanned and found, but there are books.  Books and daily training in hand to hand combat and weapons.  We soon learn whom she is to kill, but we learn why and what relation her target has to both Hanna and her father only piecemeal as the film progresses. 

 

Much the same could be said for Hanna’s target, Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett), presently a major player in the American Central Intelligence Agency.  She’s had her scanners open for Hanna’s father, Erik Heller, for the past dozen or so years ever since he quit the agency in a bloody version of The Prisoner and took Hanna with him.  Heller - she wants dead, Hanna - we’re not so clear about.  One thing that is clear is that Marissa’s operation was covert and that few of her present colleagues are still in that loop.  We also know that the object of that operation was Hanna herself – Hanna, and others children like her.


     

 

Once Hanna allows herself to be apprehended, presumably to get closer to Marissa, the chase is on, taking us from Finland to North Africa and Germany, leading us to what makes HANNA the unusual and involving movie that it is: Hanna’s introduction into the world around her - its people, customs and contraptions.  The film operates as much as a road movie as a thriller, and as much as a fish out of water story as a road movie.  Come to think of it, Joe Wright sees his movie as an adaptation of The Little Mermaid.

 

I hope I’ve been successful at keeping the discoveries of the story at bay so that you can encounter them with something like the ignorance of the facts I did.  But I must for a brief moment exercise my critical responsibility, which brings me to the one area of the film that I have questions about: the screenplay.  HANNA does a very good job at avoiding cliché, even there is a tendency to heavy-handed or unsubtle characterization.  But because it is so generally reliable in this area, when it slips it’s all the more noticeable.  In this case, that moment is not at all a careless slip, but a deliberate decision.  I am about to reveal a piece of the plot you might not want to know about; I’ll take no offense if you put off this discussion until after you see the film:


     

 

In the film’s middle section, Hanna is enjoying the experience of her first friend, a girl about her age traveling with her parents and younger brother on vacation in Morocco.  Hanna is understandably secretive about who she is and how she came to be found wandering by herself in the middle of the desert.  She is obviously sensitive to the fact that her mere presence with this family puts them in danger as well.  She says as much to her friend at one point.  But in the very next breath decides to be a true friend and share a secret.  It’s a difficult moment because it bridges the two strands of the film: the thriller angle (she knows the bad guys are in close pursuit) and Hanna’s discovery of the world of the ordinary.  The problem is that Hanna chooses the most potentially damaging secret to share, when the question (“I don’t know anything about you”) hardly calls for such a revelation.  For in sharing this Hanna not only violates her training to protect herself, but also her own understanding of friendship as she herself expressed it. She may be a killer, but she is not without a civilized concept of ethics and morality.  And I feel its untrue to the character to suddenly make her stupid in order to move the action from here to there.


     

 

Image: 9/9

Universal has its work cut out for them in that HANNA covers some considerable ground in terms of challenging contrast.  The films begins life in the snows of Finland, moves into a scarcely lit cabin, soon follows the heroine alone through a vast deserted desert, and after a number of diverse settings, indoors and out, daytime and night, eventually loses itself in the byways of Berlin and a funhouse of death.  It’s a demanding travelogue, and through it all, Saoirse’s alabaster complexion and sparkling blue eyes are never lost in the context nor exaggerated for effect.  I found no concerns, starting with a pristine source print, in respect to the usual matters of transfer. By the way, you may see the aspect ratio for this film quoted variously as 2.35:1 and 2.40:1.  I can attest that the Blu-ray is 2.40:1.


     

 

Audio & Music: 10/9

Whatever reservations I have about the screenplay, I have none about the music and soundtrack.  I would go so far as to say that the Chemical Brothers’ score for HANNA and its rendering in High Definition Blu-ray is the best soundtrack in this medium I’ve ever encountered. 

 

One might think that high-definition automatically confers the mantle of perfection for its audio mix as is usually the case for the image.  Not so.  And the reason for this, in my opinion, is not so much found in the translation to video, but the source material itself – just as it is with image quality.  I have long felt that the vast majority of source soundtracks are compromised to start with – though how I come to believe this has little basis in measurable effects.  I have attended enough theatrical venues and have listened to enough video material to conclude that, by and large, soundtracks suck: treble effects are usually exaggerated, the bass is fat and without tone, balance is arbitrary, the mix with music and dialogue is questionable, and distortion is rampant.  This goes for the music as well as for the effects.


     

 

HANNA’s soundscape doesn’t come to life until the helicopter landing at the cabin about twelve minutes into the movie.  We’ve heard helicopter effects before, and good ones can really massage the flesh – vide: Black Hawk Down – but we are also aware that there is something artificial about it, even if it’s a recording of an actual helicopter.  What’s unusual about the helicopter landing in HANNA is that we don’t see them, and that the sound gives way to other even more powerful effects before we’ve had a chance to understand precisely what we’re listening to.  There is no spotlight, no heightened effect for its own sake.  HANNA, we think is going to be an unusual sonic experience.

 

Following immediately on this scene comes the escape from “Camp G,” beginning with a strangely contained voice asking questions of Hanna in the most insouciant manner imaginable, and giving way to the escape itself.  The entire episode, including the landing (starting with the landing at 17:50 and ending at 28:00) employs the most effective soundmix in the business. The escape itself: a set piece so thrilling, so suspensefully paced, so disorienting, that we know that the rest of the movie cannot live up to this standard – and, alas it doesn’t, and can’t.


     


The “Escape” is a perfect storm of perfect cinema – and at the heart of it is the jaw-dropping, gut-pounding music track supplied by The Chemical Brothers (see Extras, below).  Bass like you have never encountered: loud, punchy, yet undistorted and musical. Bass that has timbre, intention, meaning.  None of that one-thud-note roar that other soundtracks find acceptable – even good ones, like the fourth installment of Fast and the Furious.  The first ghost attack in Drag Me to Hell is effective as it is largely because the effects are used sparingly, if jarringly.  But to keep up a tempo of driving musical content for such length has never, in my experience, been accomplished without casualties.  You could buy this video for this scene alone, and feel you have got for money’s worth – and then some.


     

 

Extras: 7

Universal has included a healthy if not exactly exhaustive supply of bonus features that, one segment excepted, eschew the evil, uncritical EPK silliness.  First up is the feature commentary by director Joe Wright.  He is somewhat dry and matter of fact, yet conveys somne of his enthusiasm for this project as much as his openness about his concerns going in, considering HANNA was his first action thriller.  As expected he touches on all the things you will want to know about: casting, Saoirse;’s training, locations, backstory, the fairytale angle (also dealt with in the Central Intelligence Agency bonus feature.)

 

Central Intelligence Agency, like most or all the bonus items is presented in HD, through the use of storyboarding, interviews and clips from the film, develops the backstory, considers fairy tale parallels (the woodcutter, snow white’s queen, the Little Mermaid.) Chemical Reaction looks at how the Grammy-winning British electronic music duo, The Chemical Brothers (Tom Rowlands & Ed Simons) approached the score and how the sound effects are melded - “intricate and layered” tells it all.  HANNA was their first film score.  One clever touch: Tom is heard but not seen.


     

 

“The Wide World of Hanna,” as we would expect, checks out the locations used in the movie in EPK style. The Alternate Ending only shows how smart the theatrical version is to end the film as they do.  In one of the Deleted Scenes we see how Hanna earns to use the Internet, something I felt missing from the film.  Joe Wright narrates the “Anatomy of a Scene – the Escape from Camp G“ - three minutes seems hardly enough.  The “Hanna Promo” is one bonus item that we can easily do without, it serves as a kind of trailer. 

 

In addition to the designated Trailer, pocket BLU, and assorted items via BD-Live 2.0 and access to an on-line digital copy, Universal also introduces (it’s new to me, anyway) one of the most useful features I’ve seen in some time: It’s called “uHEAR” – the idea is that when you want to review a bit of dialogue you may have missed, you bring up the Pop-Up menu and hit the uHEAR button, the BD backs up a little and temporarily turns on the subtitles.  Brilliant!


     

 

Recommendation: 9

An enthusiastic Thumbs Up for Universal’s HANNA.  The picture quality and extensive bonus features are what we have come to expect from Blu-ray, but the Audio is a cut above.  Sixteen year old Saoirse Ronan is on camera for 90% of the film and she is as always, astonishing, and not only because of her young years – the main reason for watching this film. Saorise (pronounced “Saerscha”) is not only a compelling physical actress, but her intriguing blue eyes permit entry in a way that many blue-eyed actors protect themselves from.  Mick LaSalle describes her this way: “Like a Nordic Madonna in a late 15th century painting, she has an open-eyed stillness that can suggest either internal peace or an absence of human feeling. Both suggestions fit nicely in ‘Hanna.’"  Saorise gets help from Eric Bana as her resolute, if obsessive father, and Cate Blanchett, who plays Hanna’s button-down nemesis with unexpected menace that devolves into an increasingly delirious mental breakdown, like Ian Holm’s Alien android.


     



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

August 29, 2011


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