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.

Advertisements

review template

Starring:Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman

Director:Judd Apatow

Writer:Judd Apatow

Cinematographer:Janusz Kaminski

Original Score:Michael Andrews, Jason Schwartzman

Running Time:146 Mins.

Judd Apatow is one hell of a clever guy, and yes talented to boot, but he has had the odd mis-step on his road to being Hollywood’s king of comedy, Drillbit Taylor was undeniably weak, Year One was a car crash of a film especially given the talent involved, and last Summer’s Pineapple Express mistook actors messing about and pretending? to be high as a concept for a film. One thing these film’s all have in common is that they were all simply produced by Apatow and to be fair his good films far outweigh the bad, with directorial efforts Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin proving classics in the genre. Which brings me to Apatow’s third film at the helm, Funny People, and where does this sit you may ask…

For a start there is no overlooking that Funny People share’s his past two film’s achilles heel, the inability to edit to a respectable length for a comedy. This isn’t to say a comedycannot have the substance to sustain two and a half hours of screen time just that the stories Apatow chooses to tell needn’t sustain this amount of screen time and feel over long and self-indulgent for it. This is a problem that could be easily over looked in 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up but here it is a little more difficult for two reasons, firstly it simply isn’t as funny as it needs to be (or as the title promises!) and two it drags for long sections where it realty needs to pick up the pace and move on. Something not helped by a sudden shift in narrative from one story to another.

Meaning Funny People is in essence two films, one is about terminal illness and the prospect of death and the other is a rom-com tacked on for another hours worth of screen time. No prizes for guessing which is the stronger part! Adam Sandler is pretty unlikeable here adn as star he gets most of the screen time, yes he is at his best and it’s fun to see him poke fun at his sell-out films but when he is being funny, he really isn’t funny enough, which makes me think a few prat falls in this instance would have gone a long way. This means that the funny is left to Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman, which is pretty messed up as they are probably the sections of the film that should have been cut to streamline the narrative.

This means that when the film gives way to its second half/rom-com you yearn for more Eric Bana (who makes a late in the day appearance) displaying some of those stand up roots he has. This coupled with Schwartzman and Hill means that it is the support acts steal the film from under Sandler’s nose. As you will likely have noticed I have yet to mention the ubiquitous Seth Rogen, and that is because on this occasion he is oddly toned down and displayed a talent for refrained acting not before seen from him. Standing largely on the sidelines and acting as friend for hire/joke writer/personal assistant for Sandler following being spotted doing a stand up routine, he has very few laughs in the film but really beats as the heart and soul.

I mention the stand up sequences only briefly because they really don’t stick out as being nearly as funny as they needed to be, were these actually big laughs there would be no call for the padded out support, as it is they consist largely of dick jokes, funny for a while? yes. But they wear thin all too soon and when there seems to be one per minute you can’t help but yearn for something slightly cleverer. Which means a film that should have been Apatow’s best and has all the elements to have been his best suffers at being his weakest lacking a solid narrative pull or the big laughs we have come to expect from the Apatow stable, especially with the man at the helm.

Hopefully next time someone will reign him in in the editing room as there is a solid 90 minute film to be found here, even if its not up to scratch though to be fair a weak Apatow comedy and one that dares to tackle a serious topic deserves some kudos and is still substantially better than most of its competition

VERDICT

A great disappointment, not nearly as funny as it should have been and lacking solid direction, Funny People meanders from one story to another two thirds of the way in, over-long and unfunny tarnishing that Apatow magic a touch.

grade-c-

review template

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston

Director: Robert Schwentke

Writer(s): Bruce Joel Rubin, Audrey Niffenegger

Cinematography: Florian Ballhaus

Original Score: Mychael Danna

Running Time: 107 Mins.

The Time Traveler’s Wife seems somewhat confused, not the wife herself, that would be the rather lovely and hugely talented Rachel McAdams, no the film, is it sci-fi, weepy/worthy drama or sweeping romantic epic? Well it’s a little bit of everything and therein lies the rub. Yet another adaptatation of a novel, one of those that many saw as somewhat unfilmable and better off confined to the pages of a book and peoples imaginations, it leaps to to silver screen courtesy of “the makers of The Notebook“, which in lamen’s terms means the money men, and in that short sentence alone you will likely know where we are tone wise…some of the time!

You see Henry DeTamble is the time traveler of the title, flitting back and forth in time from childhood to the inevitable end, and everywhere between. His predicament, for that is what time travelling becomes here as opposed to the usual benefit, is that he cannot control when or to where he travels, meaning he disappears at the most inordinate moments, wedding night, childbirth etc. etc. the more dramatic effect the better you may have gathered. This is put down to a genetic disorder Henry has, so upon meeting McAdam’s Clare Abshire in his prime he travels back to see her as a child when he is the older married version of himself, married to Clare you see…if all this sounds a touch confusing, it is.

It is this that proves to be both the film’s problem and its saving grace all in one, for while it is a unique story device and makes for a heart rending love story, it also becomes far too contrived and confusing, (Harry claims at one point he cannot travel to the future yet he does at one point!), and spanning the course of a whole life of different lifetimes into one 107 minute film means much feels forced and crammed in, jumping from major life point to the next, this works in frothy rom-com’s but not when your attemping to forge an epic love story that wants to be more Jane Eyre than Marley and Me.

Thankfully Bana and McAdams are on hand and superbly cast, obviously that they are two fantastic actors does a great deal to elevate the film and add therefore that heft the film-makers’ so clearly yearn for, it is just a shame the characters aren’t given quite enough room to breathe, thankfully they are never offscreen and the time travel aspect is often subtley used to great comic effect, Henry in woman’s clothing is a cracker and the fact that he reappears naked everytime he travels is shamefully amusing.

What provides the film with its coup d’etat is the introduction of something of a twist/mystery revolving around the fate of a central character, and while The Time Traveler’s wife doesn’t become a “whodunnit” it does gain an air of pathos that maekes you think and see a worthy denouement for a film that dared to try and be a little different and largely succeeds but for a little confusion.

VERDICT

Not quite as sweeping as it would like to be The Time Traveler’s Wife is a solid study of romance between two fantastic actors and a unique dilemma. 

 grade-c-