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Entries in Saoirse Ronan (2)

Friday
Apr082011

Hanna

Hanna is a movie of perplexing interest. It’s a technically sound film from an accomplished director who has, with the exception of The Soloist, put out a string of excellent movies. From an aesthetic viewpoint, Hanna suffers from only minor problems, but the whole of the experience is empty and meaningless. It’s nothing but an exercise in stylish action, which would be fine if the action scenes were anything worth talking about. Hanna is as lively as a dull movie can get, which makes it some sort of anomaly, but if that’s the biggest praise it can gather, does that really make it worth seeing?

Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna. For as long as she can remember, she has lived out in the middle of the woods with her father, Erik, played by Eric Bana. He used to be a CIA agent, but went rogue many years ago and has been in hiding ever since. For some reason, he has a switch in their cabin that, when flipped, will give away their position to Marissa, played by Cate Blanchett, a former colleague of his who intends on wiping them out for mysterious purposes. Erik has spent years training Hanna to survive in preparation for this day. After the opening scenes, the flip is switched and the chase is on.

There is one shining light in Hanna and that is Saoirse Ronan, who makes up for her tepid performance in The Lovely Bones by capturing the type of ass kicking, female empowerment mojo the girls in Sucker Punch muffed up with over-sexualization. She’s a tiny little thing, but she holds her own against the bulky men fighting her, and believably so. The reasoning behind her skills is kind of silly, but it’s a silliness you have to accept as essential to the story.

Alas, much of what else that happens is anything but essential. The film’s biggest downfall that it fails to build momentum because it wastes its time in needless narrative tangents, like when Hanna goes out on a date with a boy she just met. Its intention is to show how inexperienced she is with the outside world, which includes social interaction, but it has zero relevance to the broader story. It's a scene that can only be described as random and unnecessary, especially when compared to other, better scenes that more clearly show how ignorant she is to the world, like when she discovers electricity for the first time.

When it does get to the action, it becomes a repetitive slog through meandering chase scenes where nonsensical actions become the order of the day. Hanna may have the combat skills of a martial arts expert, but most of the time she opts to simply run away, which doesn’t make for a particularly thrilling experience. Presumably to make up for its lack of variety, director Joe Wright employs camera trickery on a few occasions that have no impact or metaphorical purpose (one of its few aesthetic stumbles, along with its occasional use of shaky cam that feels so out of place as to be unpleasantly jarring). The final nail in the coffin comes from the musical score, which is so piercingly loud and pounding that it sometimes drowns out the dialogue in the more intense scenes. I would say this is an unforgivable error, but in a story with no point, it’s merely an annoyance.

Hanna is a film that is fun to rip apart with friends. It has so many minor errors it almost becomes laughable. For instance, very early in the movie a plane flies low over Hanna and Erik’s hidden cabin in the woods, which is something Hanna has never experienced. I guess the airlines had just been shut down for the last 14 years (and don’t even get me started on why they flipped that switch). From what I could tell walking out of the theater after my viewing, Hanna will be a popular movie, but don’t be fooled by word of mouth. “Popular” doesn’t mean “good.”

Hanna receives 2/5

Friday
Jan152010

The Lovely Bones

Before 2001, few people knew of the now famous Peter Jackson. Before landing the gig of a lifetime with The Lord of the Rings movies, he had dabbled mainly in comedy/horror films with Bad Taste, the Michael J. Fox starring The Frighteners, and one of my personal favorites Dead Alive (known as Braindead in other areas of the world). Since then, what with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the highly lauded 2005 King Kong remake, Jackson has proven himself to be a real talent in Hollywood. So imagine my disappointment after watching The Lovely Bones, a mediocre, pretentious effort from one of cinema's most prized directors. It's been quite a while since I've seen a movie with such an impressive resume that has failed to create any type of emotional resonance or meaning.

The film begins in 1973 and is about Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14 year old girl who gets murdered by George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) one day on her walk back home from school. Susie ends up in a purgatory type of world, which her brother dubs "the in between" after seeing her in his room one night. You see, her family, particularly her father, can still sometimes see her or at least get a message that she is still around, like through a flickering candle for instance. In the in between world, she meets up with another girl named Holly (Nikki SooHoo) who explains that she can pass over whenever she likes, but she must leave her old world behind her. She decides she isn't yet ready and watches her parents, as well as her killer, as they try to unravel the mystery back in the world of the living.

There's a lot going on in The Lovely Bones. There are themes of love, death, tragedy, murder, the afterlife, divine intervention, the break-up of a family, and more, but none of them ever seem to fully come together into a cohesive whole. They are explored, but only by themselves, never together. None of the themes ever run their courses into one giant metaphor on life or death. They're just there.

This is a movie that assumes there is an afterlife. It never truly questions what happens after you die, which comes as a disappointment. Quite simply, one minute you're here, the next you're not and you're on your final journey on your way to the afterlife. Susie talks of "my heaven," but as far as I could tell, this heaven had no god or supreme being to rule over it. The film never questions the implications of what would happen if you died and there was an afterlife, but nobody was there to rule it. I felt like it had plenty of opportunities to really get into why death is such a mystery, but it spends the majority of its time on Earth going through the motions of a routine murder mystery.

The Lovely Bones is an unstructured movie where years go by with little to no indication, which comes off as confusing because Susie does not age in the afterlife, but everything goes on as it would normally on Earth. Its plot turns come off as insignificant, as evidenced by a scene midway through where the Salmon mother, played by Rachel Weisz, leaves the family out of grief and doesn't return until late in the movie. There's even a montage that occurs after Susie's death that is played for laughs that feels like it should be placed in the next Austin Powers movie, not in the serious nature of this film.

Then you have the acting, which is uniformly unimpressive. Mark Wahlberg is poor, Rachel Weisz, a usually reliable actress, seems to be phoning it in and little Susie Salmon as played by Saoirse Ronan is adequate, but hardly compelling. The poor acting correlates with the sometimes laughable story because none of it feels authentic. There's a ridiculous love connection that sparks up between Susie and Ray, played by Reece Ritchie, that plays like a deleted scene from Twilight due to the long awkward stares and a piano tune that sounds ripped from NBC's "The More You Know" PSA's.

After my screening of The Lovely Bones, I inadvertently heard another critic comment that the film had the "style over substance" school of thought. That person couldn't be more right. This is all style and no substance. Jackson is a great director, but his approach to this film seems extravagant simply for the sake of it. It worked in King Kong and Lord of the Rings, but the difference is that this material doesn't always necessarily call for it, yet it's bumped up to 11. It becomes a major distraction.

Though not devoid of all positive qualities (Stanley Tucci is terrific and there's a truly heart pounding chase scene in the back half of the movie), The Lovely Bones nevertheless feels manufactured not out of love, but labor and its ending is anti-climactic and unfulfilling. Don't expect this one to win best picture kiddos.

The Lovely Bones receives 1.5/5