(The Devil is in the Details) Minutia Madness Hanna Edition

Minutia Madness: Hanna Edition
By Bret Dorman

(As always, SPOILERS! may apply to the movie in discussion.)

Regular Hanna Poster utilizing Saoirse Ronan’s striking eyes.

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

Hanna is always able to blend in. Fur in the snow, orange jumpsuit in the desert, and the blue dress in Morocco.

Hanna is a fantastic action movie for several reasons, but I feel like some people latch on to its few shortcomings and are a bit harsh on the movie. Sure, some criticisms are valid. For instance, why does Erik Heller seemingly teach Hanna everything she needs to know about being a spy except how to use technology and a computer? I get that she shouldn’t have to rely on this, but you’d think it would be helpful to know what a TV is and on a very basic level how to use a computer. These Tarzan-esque fish out of water elements are good for a chuckle, but it’s the 21st century. Come on. On the other hand, some elements of the movie do seem to be lacking. I used to word shortcomings because I don’t think the movie is flawed in certain elements, it just uses its time for other things. Hanna is a pretty tight, laser focused script. Sure I’d like to see more elements all around; however, not every movie can focus on every aspect of its story. Hanna chooses a couple things to do extremely well and for that I love it.

Wiegler’s strong reaction makes the audience react strongly as well.

The things Hanna really excels at are character reputation, impact-full character backgrounds, and character choices that resound throughout the story and mean something on a personal level and to other characters as well. As you can see, Hanna is all about its characters (most specifically Hanna, Erik Heller, and MarisSa Wiegler which is one of the best bad’guy’ names ever). We hear the name Wiegler and know that her presence is enough to disturb Hanna and Erik’s life enough to the point where everything she’s been training for is leading up to her pushing the switch. Then in the faux-Wiegler interrogation scene, real-Wiegler’s face is both shocked and astonished as Hanna assassinates the fake one, takes down the guards, and shoots all the cameras. Wiegler knows that could have been her, that is was MEANT for her, yet that is exactly what Erik was supposed to train Hanna to do. The actual build up and execution, the effect that event has on other people and the story as a whole, is what makes that scene as well as the entire movie more intimate and powerful than most generic actioners.

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.

Isaacs and his hench(trans?)men…

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.

Erik looking over his shoulder ready to kick some ass.

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?

Cool Fan Made Poster found at http://www.1974design.com

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