Minutia Madness: Hanna Edition
By Bret Dorman
(As always, SPOILERS! may apply to the movie in discussion.)Everyone knows what makes a movie good. Blurbs like “compelling”, “powerful”, and “explosive non stop thrill ride that will leave you on the edge of your seat!” are common place on movie posters. In reviews (including my own) people point out how the direction is “great”, how the writing is “awesome”, and how the acting is “wonderful”. Every once in a while you can find a really great essay from a smart film critic (a real one) or film maker that actually explains why a movie is good and helps you as a viewer become a better film watcher.
But what about those small moments that fall in between the cracks? I understand the need to talk about a movie in the broad sense, its the easiest most SPOILER! free way of saying if you liked or didn’t like a movie. I prefer people to talk in specifics, to actually know why something is good or bad. But this goes beyond all that. This is blowing the tiniest detail way out of proportion. This is what makes me a film nerd. This is Minutia Madness!!!
Written by Seth Lochhead and David Farr; Directed by Joe Wright
So let’s take a look at this scene where Marissa Wiegler approaches an old ‘friend’ for his special talents, things that he can do that her people at the C.I.A. can’t, due to legal and moral restrictions. Tom Hollander as Isaacs, the brutally efficient and delightfully creepy hitman, is what more action movies need. Not what he does specifically, but giving a character a quirk and turning a bland role like “guy hired to hunt down main character” and turning it into something memorable. Here is the strange scene:
Again, this scene is ALL about character. Marissa Wiegler, despite being highly proficient in her job and having a pretty tight leash on her coworkers (even her superiors is seems); is going to a seedy place, off the books, to enlist the help of a man who has done some shady stuff for her in the past. Isaacs immediately is introduced as a strange man (liking children and/or hermaphrodites). As the conversation turns to Erik and Hanna he is aware of who and what both people really are. The detail of the day though, lies in Isaacs’ quick reaction to having the folder slid over his way. Up to this point their conversation, although slightly antagonistic, seems relatively friendly. When Marissa lays it down that she is there because of Erik, the tone gets a bit more serious for a bit. Either Isaacs has had previous encounters with Erik or he at least knows that if they were to meet, Erik could best him (which does happen). As Marissa moves the folder closer to Isaacs, his immediate reaction is to distance himself from it, to not even let it touch him, until he has ALL the details and knows EXACLTY what Marissa is asking of him. This is the mark of a professional, someone who knows what he is capable of and knows that once he accepts a ‘mission’ he has to see it through to the end. This tiny movement alone (and why he does it) speaks more about his AND other characters (Erik is SUPER dangerous) than some other movies can accomplish in their entire run-times.
Without explicitly saying something corny like Isaacs is “the best of the best” the writers of Hanna take their time and make the most of every opportunity. Hanna is the intimate tale of a girl who has to overcome the past actions of those in her life, takes some time out to go on a first date, and ends up kicking some ass when everyone she knows it threatened or dead. Instead of focusing on big problems like a city or the entire world being in danger, the story stays pretty tight to Hanna and those closest to her. Instead of trying to make characters as bland as can be, the writers choose to celebrate diversity in their supporting cast. Instead of hiring a director for his style and then draining the movie of any personality, Joe Wright is given the opportunity to make a unique action gem that actually feels different and refreshing.Hanna goes on to have a stunning “basic arrival in a city” scene turns into a paranoid stalking scene that turns into a 4-on-1 brawl all in one long take, a well choreographed shipping yard fight scene, a few moments for Hanna to actually listen to and enjoy some music, as well as the actual soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers heightening every exciting scene. It’s an action movie like no other but doesn’t violate any golden Action Movie rules. A must see for action lovers.
So what do you think? Is Isaacs’ cautionary reaction worthy of opening a Case File on? Or am I just crazy for focusing on this minute detail?