Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Tom Hollander, Vicky Krieps, Jessica Barden

Director: Joe Wright

Writer: Seth Lochhead, David Farr,

Cinematography: Alwin H. Kuchler

Original Score: The Chemical Brothers

Running Time: 111 Mins.

For better or worse films seem to fall in the camp marked mainstream or indie, mainstream films are crowd-pleasing by their very nature, you know what you’re getting the expectation is fulfilled (usually) and in a great mainstream film the expectations are exceeded but not usually at the expense of subversion. Indie films opposingly offer a skewed perspective, maybe something a little more grounded in the “real world” and take more time to craft characters, though this can more often than not result in a plodding, or leisurely, pace and don’t usually concern themselves with “plot drive” all that much. Why is this significant you may wonder? And why so for a review of director Joe Wright’s fourth film Hanna?

Well here’s the rub, Hanna is a film that has sold itself as a solid genre piece, a thriller about a genetically enhanced experiment (Saoirse Ronan) who is on a mission to kill her mother’s murderer, corrupt CIA operative Marissa, and there’s more, Hanna has been trained and brought up by Erik (Bana) a man she believes is her father while Marissa has set an “eccentric” hitman on Hanna’s trail. In fact this all rather adds up to a worthy entry into the ranks of Leon and The Assassin…except it doesn’t. At some points in the film the action piques, the pace quickens and the thriller I was looking forward too emerged. Ronan makes for a convincing killer and Bana demonstrates yet again why he should be a much bigger star, and despite his (relatively) minor role he gets to kick ass Jason Bourne style.

The problem is the building of the solid story and hints at genetically enhanced children (the stuff of sci-fi and superhero films) feels tonally at odds with the long periods of the film in which not a lot happens bar some rather stagnant character development, and for the amount of time we spend getting to know people you will likely either end up bored (as with Hanna herself) or annoyed (the throroughly middle class English family that takes Hanna in). The most interesting character here are the villains, Blanchett has proven she does a good line in creepy villains before but excels here using the little she has to work with to prove truly menacing, likewise Tom Hollander whose character comes from the stereotypical gay/eccentric/unusual hitman rulebook but he really has fun with it, though again it jars with the rest of the film and feels layered in adding little to the overall narrative.

Usually this clash in styles isn’t that problematic as one tends to over-ride the other and end up all the more memorable for it, but it takes a director well established in one or the other. Wright has a great eye for visuals and knows how to tell a story, his back catalogue of Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and the wildly under-rated The Soloist have proven as much, but wielding out-and-out thriller material seems to have evaded him in terms of moulding something that is a visually stimulating, character driven thriller. In patches yes there is a great deal of promise, the opening set amidst snowy woodland and a clutch of punchy action scenes are well-directed, set to a soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers that brings the same level of thrills as Daft Punk did for Tron: Legacy or Trent Reznor with The Social Network, the tension is ratcheted up and you begin to feel immersed…and then it stops as soon as it has begun.

This sudden bout of violence/action syndrome (stopping as soon as it started) has afflicted many a film lately, film-makers claiming it bring a level of realism. Fair enough I say in a drama, social realism, boxing films, as with anything it works in the right context but here it is simply misjudged and kills any tension with the long un-involving sections stymying the drive, and in a supposed “thriller’ the first and foremost thing needed is drive, a sense of danger and of urgency. Saoirse Ronan as the central protagonist also fails to help and just can’t convince, and in these times of hard-ass teen girls such as Hitgirl in Kick-Ass your heroine needs to make her mark, if the focus had stayed on the central idea this could quite easily have happened, and would have ironically allowed for a more layered character.

VERDICT

Hanna has a plot that holds a lot of promise for a tight an involving thriller is bungled by a director who seems an odd fit, Wright directs the all too infrequent action with flair and a punchy urgency but swamps it all in a totally misjudged, and rather dull, indie tinged character segments.

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Well heres an odd one, the first image from Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, and let me just say it’s not quite what I was expecting!

 “Mr. Fox” is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story, centering on a clever fox who must outwit three mean, dimwitted farmers who try their hardest to hurt Mr. Fox and his family. George Clooney is voicing Mr. Fox, and Cate Blanchett plays his wife. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Meryl Streep, Adrien Brody, Brian Cox and more also lend their talents to the cast.

The picure looks…different to say the least. It looks like a cross between animation and Muppets. With Wes Anderson behind the wheel, I’m sure we’re in a visual treat even if this picture doesn’t give me that impression!

Fantasic Mr. Fox is due out in November so expect a trailer soon, it has to be better than Chipmunks: The Squeakuel!

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So kicking off this week for movie news. Here we have the first shot of Russell Crowe as Robin Hood in Ridley Scott’s flick. USA Today was given the first look and well… yeah, that’s certainly Russell Crowe with a bow and arrow…

Looks like Crowe’s put on his Gladiator haircut and beard for his reteam with Scott. I don’t think this image sets the world on fire, with the distinct look of Maximus dressed up in panto gear, but I still think they’ve gathered a helluva cast for this flick. I trust Scott and I think Crowe is usually great and always at the top of his game when working with Scott. I know it’s not the popular opinion, but I actually really enjoyed The Good Year and last years Body of lies was criminally under-rated.

Anyway lets see what else emerges from the production before judging too much,but for now what think you?

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Looks like Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood has found his Merry Men, after a trio of actors today signed on to co-star in the untitled Ridley Scott/Crowe Robin Hood project formerly known as Nottingham.

Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand and Alan Doyle will play Will Scarlet, Robin’s nephew and archer extraordinaire; Little John, professional human mountain; and the minstrel Alan A Dayle (a character that seldom featured in previous versions of the Hood legend) in the movie, which starts shooting in the UK this April.

In a curious twist, none of the three actors are English, so their Nottingham accents must have been pretty damn decent. Unless, of course, they come from the same part of Nottingham as Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.

Grimes is an American best known as the ginger doctor on E.R., Durand is a Canadian built like a brick shithouse (was last seen in Lost, and he’ll next be seen under heavy prosthetics as The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine), while Doyle isn’t even an actor. He’s actually the frontman for Canadian band, Great Big Sea. But, given A Dayle’s proclivity for block rocking beats, he sounds like a good choice.

It’s certainly an interesting mix – clearly, with Crowe on board as Robin Hood and potentially the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Cate Blanchett signed on as Maid Marian, Sir Ridley feels that he doesn’t need any more stars in the cast. It’s probably a wise decision – I’m still trying to banish the memories of Christian Slater as Will Scarlet.

It’s been rumoured for some time, but it has now been confirmed that Cate Blanchett will play Maid Marion in the probably-titled Robin Hood, formerly Nottingham, from Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, making this English tale thoroughly Australian.

The story, as described by Variety, will apparently stay fairly close to the historical facts of the 12th century, and casts Robin of Loxley (Crowe) as an abandoned child brought up by the people of Nottingham, who therefore develops a strong sense of community feeling.

But, psychology fans, that early abandonment means he has Trust Issues, making it hard for him to fall in love. He meets his match in Blanchett’s strong and independent Maid Marion.

Brian Helgeland (the man who made jousting cool in A Knight’s Tale) wrote the latest version of the story, which is described as the “Gladiator version” of the legend, and filming on the $130 million-budgeted film is due to start in April. Scott is apparently aiming for a PG-13 rating, presumably with Mild Scary Scenes and Fantasy Archery.

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Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swimton, Faune A. Chambers, Jason Flemyng

Director: David Fincher

Screenplay: Eric Roth

Cinematography: Claudio Miranda

Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

Running Time: 166 Mins.

There is much to be admired in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, he behind such cinematic masterpieces as Se7enFight Club and most recently Zodiac, it is the kind of sweeping epic the Academy voters love, hence its 13 Oscar nods. But the Academy is often wrong, Forrest Gump and Shakespeare In Love being two glaring examples and once again I am sorry to report that for all that’s good in Benjamin Button it has some rather large flaws making it little more than Forrest Gump: the arthouse version!

Lest, before I get caught up with whats wrong, this is a film that really does have a lot going for it. David Fincher is no slouch in the directors chair, and once again he has brought his unique style to something that one would think was more befitting of Tim Burton. Sharing the borderline gothic look of his past cinematic masterpieces, including Se7en and Zodiac, Benjamin Button is undoubtably a total feast for the eyes, aided by DOP Claudio Miranda each scene is set and lit as if each moment of the titular hero’s life were taking place in a dream land not too far removed from our own world, but beautiful enough to give it an ethereal quality.

Cutting through the gorgeous look of the film are Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Pitt is superb, Blanchett on the other hand is deeply underwhelming and woefully miscast, it would seem that when she is called upon to play larger than life characters such as Elizabeth, Bob Dylan or Catherine Hepburn she excels but in romantic fare such as this she stumbles at the first hurdle, the bulk of the film where she plays the young to middle aged object of Benjamin’s desire is dull and empotionless at best but it’s in the needless framing device, in which we cut back to Blanchett on her death bed that really niggle. Overly sentimental and needless in the grand scheme of the story, it’s in these scenes that the film is really dragged down, in quality and pace.

Thankfully Pitt is on hand to bring back the balance, his performance is a wonder, both technically and emotionally. Oft under-rated, he again shows his range playing Benjamin from pensioner to teen, it’s in the earlier half of the film’s long running time that the story is at peak, in playing an child in an 80 year old man’s body Pitt holds your attention and you can’t take your eyes off the screen in disbelief at how Fincher and his team have used the technology to age the star, but beneth all the technical achievements is a performance earning every inch of his Academy Award nomination.

The latter half of the film becomes less concerned with Pitt’s journey and dealing with his plight and more of a love story, with the relationship between the two leads taking centra stage, its passable fare but doesn’t fulfill the promise of the infinitly more interesting first half. As the film approaches its close the use of the dying Blanchett and daughter becomes more pertinant and hackneyed, with the revelation that Button is the girl’s father and having these scenes set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina, they are two plot devices too many, and your attention wavers when it should grip.   

VERDICT

Far from the masterpiece I had hoped for, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has a great film in there somewhere, and phenomenal performance by Pitt, but it becomes too hackneyed and is plighted by a miscast Blanchett gargling on her death-bed when it’s deeply in need of some emotional pull.

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