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Hanna (2011) Review

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Hanna

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Hanna
Eric Bana as Erik Heller
Vicky Krieps as Johanna Zadek
Cate Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler
Tom Hollander as Isaacs
Olivia Williams as Rachel
Jason Flemyng as Sebastian
Director:  Joe Wright

Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan), a 16-year-old raised to be the perfect assassin, is sent on a mission, which takes her across Europe. She is shadowed by an intelligence agent and her team.

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I only knew some things about Hanna going in. I knew it was an action thriller directed by Joe Wright and starred the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. It turned out to be pretty good, and even way better than I thought it would be.

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As far as thrillers go, it works for what it is. At hour and 51 minutes long, it keeps you generally invested. The premise is very straightforward, character motivations are clear cut, and the plot is pretty simple, but at the same time makes Hanna difficult to categorize as is, because it presents us a coming of age tale in the form of revenge. A lot of the charm from Hanna and what makes it distinct as a movie drives from the fact that it feels like a fairy tale. There are a lot of fairy tale and adventure references and imagery throughout. When you take into consideration the symbol presented by a Grimm fairy tale that Hanna reads, it also shows a perfect reflection of the sort of the person that Hanna has grown up to become. It’s not just Hanna who helps to create the metaphorical fairy tale presented as a cat and mouse thriller, Cate Blanchett comes along the way to present a wicked witch sort of figure in the story. Fairy tale tributes aside, the movie is character focussed, especially with the lead character, and is less action orientated. I found that this worked for the film. Despite the familiarity of the actual plot, it isn’t unpredictable, and I was pretty riveted with the story. Hanna becomes a distinct morality tale, it’s a fairly straightforward narrative that manages to mix this, a coming of age story, and a road movie all at once while remaining an action film at heart. It has an odd mix of tones here but strangely it works without issue, while also playing out in a subversive manner. There’s a bit of an open ending, which sort of worked but it did feel abrupt.

2013. Hanna

Saoirse Ronan is in the lead role as Hanna, and she’s once again good as to be expected. She carries much of her movie herself and is a step above the others in this cast. Having been trained to defend herself and growing up in an isolated environment, her character goes through an arc as she goes to different places. She manages to be convincingly ruthless and dangerous, while also being naïve and innocent. It really wouldn’t have worked as well without her. She also very believable in the action scenes. The rest of the supporting cast are good. Eric Bana is good in his screentime as Hanna’s father (who also trained her), and Cate Blanchett is very effective as the scene chewing main antagonist of the film, who is hunting Hanna down over the course of the movie. Tom Hollander is also solid as an eccentric assassin also hunting Hanna.

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Joe Wright has directed this quite well, he’s a more than capable filmmaker. This is his first and currently only action movie (having been known at this point for making costume and period dramas), and he did a good job on that front. The action is snappy, crisp and fast paced, with good choreography. The action isn’t glamourised either, it’s dark and brutal while being entertaining. The score from the Chemical Brothers works quite well too. The editing, chorography and pacing all work in Wright’s favour. He doesn’t particularly do anything to reinvent the genre, but it created a bizarre and distinct mix of tones that works well.

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Hanna is worth watching for sure, from Joe Wright’s great direction, to the simple yet subversive story and the performances, particularly Saoirse Ronan in the title role. As far as action movies go it’s not special, but it’s very well made, and it’s one of the more underrated action movies from the past 10 years.

Stardust (2007) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains frightening fanstasy scenes & violence
Cast:
Claire Danes as Yvaine
Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia
Mark Strong as Prince Septimus
Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare of the Caspartine
Jason Flemyng as Prince Primus
Rupert Everett as Prince Secundus
Kate Magowan as Princess Una
Ricky Gervais as Ferdiland “Ferdy” the Fence
Sienna Miller as Victoria Forester
Peter O’Toole as the dying King of Stormhold
Director: Matthew Vaughn

To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. What Tristan finds, however, is not a chunk of space rock, but a woman (Claire Danes) named Yvaine. Yvaine is in great danger, for the king’s sons need her powers to secure the throne, and an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants to use her to achieve eternal youth and beauty.

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Stardust was the only Matthew Vaughn movie I hadn’t watched in it’s entirety yet, I’m pretty sure that I saw parts of this movie a while ago since moments of it look familiar. Going into it, I really didn’t know what to expect. A fantasy based movie is not something that I could see Vaughn of all directors do. However, this movie was quite surprising and much better than I thought it would be, I had a good time with it.

Stardust is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, throughout it’s a purely fantasy movie and really leans into that. Much of the movie is cheesy but in a good way, you can really have fun with the movie. You really can’t take this movie too seriously, and thankfully it doesn’t take itself seriously either. It has a bunch of fantasy adventure clichés and does very little to subvert them, so this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve never seen before. It’s also fairly predictable, you can generally see which direction the movie is moving towards. As a light, silly adventure fantasy movie however, I had a blast with it.

This movie has such a surprisingly large cast, young Henry Cavill and Ben Barnes appear in minor roles and even the legendary Peter O’Toole shows up for a brief appearance. On the whole the cast did very well. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox are the leads and they really worked. The interactions between the two characters were pretty typical of fantasy romances but Danes and Cox still had some good chemistry together. Michelle Pfeiffer is I guess the primary villain of the movie as one of a trio of witches looking to get Claire Danes. Pfeiffer really hams up her role at just the right level, and it really works for this movie. Mark Strong has played multiple villains and he also plays a villainous sort of character here, however there’s something about him here that’s just so entertaining to watch, he’s definitely having fun here. The MVP however was Robert De Niro who shows up in a supporting but memorable part here, definitely the standout from the whole cast. Other supporting players like Sienna Miller also play their roles well. Honestly the only one that didn’t really work was Ricky Gervais who appears briefly and even in that short time was really out of place.

This doesn’t actually feel like a Matthew Vaughn film and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He’s actually handled this movie very well. As I said with the writing and story, this movie really leans into the fantasy aspect and it’s done very well, the production design and costumes are on point. At times the visuals can look a little dated but you can look past it, because most of them are really nice to look at, even a decade later.

Matthew Vaughn’s take on a fantasy movie with Stardust was way better than I thought it would be. Even the cheese and the over the top elements were entertaining, it knew what it was, and the cast were really good here. There are for sure better fantasy movies and it’s by no means a classic, however I just really had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s worth a watch at least.