(link to IMDB details)
Directed by Joe Wright, 2011
PV rating: * * * * *
Superlatives. If Saoirse Ronan doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar and win it there’s no justice in Hollywood, but we already knew that. It might be because no one knows enough Gaelic to pronounce her name. She was English in Atonement (also directed by Joe Wright), American in The Lovely Bones, German in Hanna. A 16 year old girl wipes the floor as a credible flat out action hero with Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis et al. And Al was brilliant. If Saoirse was that good at 13 in Atonement, that good at 15 in The Lovely Bones and this amazing in Hanna, what will she be like as an adult? Hopefully, Judy Garland is not the role model.
If in a year’s time I learn that this has Best Film, Best Director (Joe Wright), Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), and best supporting actress (Cate Blanchett), and best supporting actor (Erik Bana). I won’t even blink. Is there an award for best location resarch? From Arctic forest to Morocco to Spain to Germany. A shoe-in. Costume? The villains were dressed as people who’d bullied Wright in life. The Clockwork Orange assistant thugs are surely a nod to that film. Best cinematography? I’d be surprised if anyone beats it. There are so many stunning shots. Take the extreme close up of the two girls talking in the tent. Or the Arctic forest. Or Ronan popping up like a Meerkat in the desert. Then music … The Chemical Brothers provide the soundtrack, enlivened by the flamenco scene in Spain. Worth a nomination.
A thriller with both a coherent story AND audible, clear, well-written dialogue throughout is a rarity nowadays. Wanting to hear what people say seems to be the preserve of British directors. Add Seth Lockhead to the nominations for screenplay.
So why did we watch the only show of the day (15.30) in a near deserted cinema? For edge of the seat excitement and interest, this should be up with the blockbusters. Apparently, Saoirse Ronan brought Joe Wright on board as director after she saw the script.OK, as reviewers mention, the film tips its cap to Run Lola Run, but it does it better. Tom Hollander, as the soft, creepy track-suited pursuer managed to invoke Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon, and Robert Mitchum in The Night of The Hunter, which is no mean feat. Does Mitchum whistle? I know he sings. Hollander whistles.
A thriller is a difficult genre in which to top the big budget opposition, such as the Bourne series, as this does with ease. Part of the secret is the rare, rationed out flashes of comedy among the excitement and sudden action. The family of English people she runs into in Morocco are hilarious. Jessica Barden was entertaining in Tamara Drewe. She’s great here . In real life she’s three years older than Saoirse Ronan, but she’s blessed with a face that will allow her to play teenagers at thirty. Olivia Williams plays the old hippy mum, and Jason Flemyng plays the cheerful, loveable Cockney dad. The English family are the gravediggers in Hamlet or the porter in Macbeth. They’re also a sudden nod to Mike Leigh in style, a major innovation in a thriller. Thankfully, we never find out what happens to them. Unfortunately, I’m sure our worst guesses would be right.
In a film full of fighting, with a high death count, the most squirm with horror moment is Cate Blanchett cleaning her teeth with a sonic toothbrush. It drew an ergh! from our small audience. Violence is central to the plot, but you never get the feeling that the director was wallowing in it, or taking sadistic pleasure in it (an uncomfortable feeling I always get with Tarantino and Scorsese.)
Cate Blanchett: even scarier cleaning her teeth
Plot? It takes the film to unravel the convolutions of genetic research, revenge, secret superman (or supergirl) development, CIA involvement and the need to lose the history of what happened fifteen years ago. The CIA spirit our heroine to Morocco for interrogation, dressed in orange coveralls. Not that we’re alleging the USA ever did that en route to Guantanamo Bay.
I didn’t lose interest for a moment. As we left, we heard the three girls in front of us, ‘I told you. It really WAS better the second time.”