REVIEW: Hanna

1 10 2013

When the score is the best part of a movie, you know it’s going to be a doozy.  Although to be fair, the score for “Hanna” is composed by The Chemical Brothers – and it is wicked awesome.  If you are a big runner or just like really energetic music to motivate you for whatever life throws your way, then pick up the soundtrack immediately!

Chances are, that soundtrack will be the only lasting impression “Hanna” leaves on the world.  It’s an action-thriller with a tinge of conspiratorial intrigue that comes up just short of everything it hopes to achieve.  Sure, there’s some cool cinematography and neat editing, but everything feels a little more awesome when it’s set to The Chemical Brothers.

No coincidence the movie comes from director Joe Wright, whose career could be summed up in one word: almost.  “Pride and Prejudice” almost worked as a moving Austen adaptation.  “Atonement” almost worked as a sweeping epic of love and forgiveness.  “The Soloist” almost worked as a touching biopic and an exposé of the plight of the Los Angeles homeless.  Jumping ahead, “Anna Karenina” almost worked as an innovative approach to the oft-adapted Tolstoy novel.

In “Hanna,” Wright crafts an ultra-stylish film that’s fun to look at yet falters on an emotional level.  It’s a nuts-and-bolts construction, not a heart-and-soul one.  Pity, because with some care and attention towards the performances and actors, there could have been one heck of a turn from Saoirse Ronan as the titular character.  Ditto Cate Blanchett, the Oscar-winner who could knock any role out of the park.

But as such, “Hanna” is really just there for neat smoke-and-mirrors type of stuff and some nice selections from The Chemical Brothers.  Check out the amazing club sequence from “Black Swan” if you want to hear their beats put to a worthy and compelling scene that will truly haunt you.  C2stars





REVIEW: Anna Karenina

25 11 2012

Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” is a cinematic version of Tolstoy’s treasure meant for people who love “Anna Karenina.”  In other words, if you haven’t read it or spent time with other film adaptations, this film will be as lost on you as it was on me.  It’s a stylized take on the classic that leaves those watching the film trying to decipher the plot in the dust.  (Recommendation: read a plot summary beforehand.)

Wright is trying to do a master class on “Anna Karenina” by doing something unconventional with the staging: that is, to literally set it on a stage.  The setting works well as a clever metaphor for Russian high society and breathes some new life into the dusty tale.  And kudos to Wright for trying to break out of his doldrums of conventionality that have led to a string of mediocre films that have fallen ever so short of success.

However, the extended metaphor is quickly revealed to be incredibly quixotic; that is, idealistic but not practical.  If you’ve ever seen a copy of Tolstoy’s book in print, you would certainly notice it’s a hefty volume that is sure to have quite a sprawling narrative.  The story of “Anna Karenina” takes us to all sorts of locales, many of which simply don’t work inside of a theatre or stage setting.

So rather than try to make it work, Wright hits us over the head with it in the first act … and then essentially discards it when no longer expedient.  With a little more thought, it could have yielded all sorts of revelations about the story.  But as it appears on screen in his final version, the metaphor is unfulfilled.

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