"MOVIE MAD" by Michael van den Bos

(c) 2014 by Michael van den Bos

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YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) – directed by Mel Brooks

In the original 1930s Frankenstein movies you never hear the sentence, “He would have an enormous schwanstugel” in reference to the monster’s manly member, but when Teri Garr speaks that line of dialogue in Young Frankenstein you are fully reminded you are watching a madcap Mel Brooks comedy.

Young Frankenstein was the brainchild of writer and comic actor Gene Wilder. It was inspired by his love for the popular Universal Pictures movie series—based loosely on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel—that started with Frankenstein in 1931 and whose themes form the sturdy foundation of Wilder and Brooks’ wickedly funny and warmly sympathetic screenplay.

Gene Wilder plays the brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the mad scientist who had infamously brought a corpse to life, but Frederick dismisses his grandfather as a “cuckoo” and, to further disassociate himself from his controversial family legacy, insists he be called “Fronk-en-steen”. Upon hearing that he has inherited the family estate in Transylvania Frederick travels to the castle, where he discovers his grandfather’s journal describing how he created the creature. With the help of the shtick-spewing hunchback Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor” and played by the bug-eyed Marty Feldman) and his curvaceous assistant Inga (Teri Garr), Frederick recreates his grandfather’s experiment, reanimating dead tissue in the form of a new creature (Peter Boyle), much to the horror of the villagers and the indignation of the mush-mouthed police officer, Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars). When Frederick’s sexually repressed fiancée Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) visits Frederick at the castle, she is abducted by the creature and awakened to the “sweet mystery of life” when introduced to his monster schwanstugel.

The gags come fast and furious—from bloody clever to groaningly corny—with the actors acknowledging the corn by looking askance at the camera and practically rolling their eyes.  The comic highlight is when Dr. Frankenstein first reveals the Creature to the public at a V.I.P. event.  Resplendent in top hat and tails, Wilder and Boyle perform a showstopping tap dance to Irving Berlin's "Puttin' On The Ritz" that is cheeky, endearing and monstrously funny. 

The entire cast is comically dead on, displaying superb timing, an unmistakeable joy of performance and a kind of innocent sweetness. Peter Boyle as the creature balances menace and empathy as the stitched-together social outcast who just wants to be loved, and his performance nicely echoes Boris Karloff’s pathos in the original Frankenstein movies. Cloris Leachman as the ominous housekeeper Frau Blücher (whenever her name is spoken, horses whinny in dread!) is at her dryly comic best and Teri Garr as the seemingly innocent lab assistant is spectacularly sexy, winsome and funny, all at once. Marty Feldman’s hunchback utters punchlines and comic non sequiturs with gleeful abandon. Madeline Kahn makes sexual frigidity a laugh riot, Gene Hackman’s cameo as a blind hermit who tries to befriend the creature is gut-splittingly hilarious—in a spin on a similar but more serious scene in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)—and Gene Wilder delivers one of the finest comic performances in movie history as Dr. Frankenstein. Wilder is positively charged with electricity; his Dr. Frankenstein careens from haughtiness to humility and when he becomes excited he delivers his dialogue so each sentence ends in a loud, furious and passionate declaration that is as startling as it is funny.

The cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld is appropriately moody in stunning black and white, capturing the look of the original Frankenstein movies (which were in turn influenced by the German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s) and Dale Hennesy’s gothic production design is also nicely evocative of its source material.

Mel Brooks and Marty Feldman

Young Frankenstein is not just a string of gags and comic skits like so many horror spoofs. It works on every level as a true motion picture, is propelled by a strong narrative arc and its stylish direction is a credit to the multiple talents of Mel Brooks.

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BAMBI (1942) - Produced by Walt Disney, Directed by David Hand

The ‘circle of life’ theme is a favourite among filmmakers—especially in animated movies—because it provides a relatable and age-old dramatic structure for a compelling character arc. This theme is subtly present in the Toy Story trilogy and it more overtly motivates Disney’s The Lion King. Arguably though, the most elegant and moving filmic expression of a spiritual and physical rebirth can be traced back to Bambi, the classic 1942 animated feature produced by Walt Disney.

Bambi was Walt Disney’s fifth animated feature film, following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Dumbo (1941). Along with Bambi, these five films constitute Walt Disney’s golden age of animation, every film a milestone in the evolution of character animation, storytelling, subject matter and technical achievements.  During the 1930s and early ‘40s, each new Disney feature film was a rebirth, a reinvention for the studio and the animation medium—and Bambi is the film that marks Walt Disney’s creative maturity. It’s no wonder that Walt acknowledged Bambi as his favourite film among the many that he produced.

Bambi is the simple tale of a newborn male fawn and his year-long journey into maturity, ultimately to become the Prince of the Forest. Bambi will experience profoundly the changes of the seasons, the ways of nature and acts of survival and death. He meets animals who will become lifelong friends, like Thumper the rabbit (engagingly voiced by four-year-old Peter Behn), Flower the skunk and Faline the doe, who will become the mother of his child. The film is not so much a conventional narrative: it is a lyrical and philosophical tone-poem. The dialogue is sparse yet crisp—humorous and powerful in its brevity—and the ethereal beauty of the forest suggests moods and emotions. These stunning backgrounds are minimalist in their Oriental-influenced design, inspired by the brilliant Chinese-American Disney artist, Tyrus Wong. 

Among the exceptional qualities of Bambi is its lush and sensitive symphonic music score by Frank Churchill and Edward H. Plumb, superbly orchestrated by Charles Wolcott and Paul J. Smith, augmented with tasteful choral arrangements by Charles Henderson.  The music score is at once delicate and dynamic, expressing nuanced textures of the story's mood, the milieu's atmosphere and the characters' feelings.  The handful of songs are sublimely woven into the narrative, with the stand out  being "Little April Shower", which expresses young Bambi's first experience with a rain shower turned downpour.  The song is ephemeral and enchanting, a lyrical whisper of the weather.  "Little April Shower", written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, was nominated for the Best Song Academy Award, and the music score and sound editing were also nominated for Oscars. 

Though the Disney animators had enjoyed great success in elevating character animation from ‘rubber-hose’ frolicking to a refined style of realism in their features prior to Bambi, they faced an awesome challenge to be able to endow the animals from Felix Salten’s original book with both realism and relatable feelings. The Disney artists studied real fawns and did tireless research on animal anatomy and when two of Walt’s key animators, Frank Thomas and Milt Kahl, presented Walt with a screening of their first animation experiments on Bambi, the nervous animators waited in trepidation for his review. Never one to dole out easy compliments, Walt— with a tear in his eye—sincerely told his animators, “Thanks, fellows: that stuff is pure gold!”

And after 70 years, Bambi remains pure gold—and evergreen. It’s recognized as one of the finest animated films ever made and I would go so far as to crown this Prince of the Forest as one of the finest motion pictures (animation or live-action!) of all time.

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A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER (1938) – directed by Lloyd Bacon

Edward G. Robinson shot to fame playing gangster Caesar Enrico Bandello in the 1930 Warner Brothers’ gangster movie Little Caesar, which—along with 1931’s The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney, and 1932’s Scarface, starring Paul Muni—forever defined the iconic American movie gangster. Those titles, and other crime movies from the Great Depression, were based on true stores that were ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’—with Little Caesar and Scarface drawing inspiration from real-life Chicago crime boss Al Capone—and they were noted for their fast pacing and violent stories drenched with urban grittiness, replete with a cynical, slangy street vernacular.

Edward G. Robinson’s robust and riveting performance as the insatiable power-seeker Little Caesar elevated that movie from its stiff direction and typecast Robinson in a variety of tough guy roles over the years. He was occasionally able to break away into other roles, however, most notably as the intelligent and sympathetic insurance investigator in Billy Wilder’s brilliant film noir, Double Indemnity (1944). Robinson could also make fun of his gangster persona, spoofing it a few times during his career in films like the delightful The Little Giant (1933), in which he plays a bootlegging crime boss who decides to break into upper-class society after Prohibition’s repeal.  A few years later, Robinson topped The Little Giant in his funniest, most disarming gangster comedy, A Slight Case of Murder (1938), a quicksilver Warner Brothers poke at the genre they specialized in.

In A Slight Case of Murder, Robinson plays gangster beer baron Remy Marco, who is also a loving family man. After Prohibition ends Marco attempts to go legit, but the beer he so easily pushed on speakeasies when booze was illegal isn’t selling in a legal market because it’s so vile that even his former henchmen gag at the thought of drinking it. Marco is losing money faster than a machine gun spits lead and the bank is about to foreclose on his brewery. His problems mount when four dead rival gangsters are found in his summer home along with a bag of payout money stolen from a bookie, and, unbeknownst to Marco, the fifth surviving gangster —who plugged the other four—is hiding in the house and ready to whack Marco. Meanwhile, Marco’s daughter, newly graduated from a European university, announces her engagement to a young and nervous rookie state trooper. This causes Marco and his wife Nora (Ruth Donnelly), to bristle, a reaction which stems from a slight aversion to cops from their former gangster days.   

A Slight Case of Murder is based on a play by Damon Runyon (who authored two short stories which became the basis for the Broadway and film musical, Guys and Dolls) and Howard Lindsay.  The screenplay was written by Earl Baldwin and Joseph Schrank, who created a beautiful balance of sophisticated farce and domestic drawing room comedy in a wiseguy world not unlike Scorsese's Goodfellas.  With its domestic portrayal of gangsters, A Slight Case of Murder is like a comic overture to The Sopranos by way of Noël Coward.

Edward G. Robinson elegantly riffs on his tough guy persona, displaying remarkable comic timing as Marco struggles to deal with his problems in legitimate ways before resorting to criminal cunning when absolutely necessary. Ruth Donnelly practically steals the movie away from Robinson as the doting wife who puts on airs of being a refined high-class ‘lady’ but at heart remains a wise-cracking gun moll.

Director Lloyd Bacon was not a film stylist, but like many of his 1930s Warner Brothers pictures, he fortifies A Slight Case of Murder with a giddy verve, making it a gleeful, gag-filled and affectionate homage to the gangster genre.

A Slight Case of Murder is available on Warner Home Video DVD.  In the Vancouver area, order this DVD title from VIDEOMATICA SALES - tel: 604-734-5752; website: http://videomaticasales.wordpress.com/A Slight Case of Murder plays frequently on Turner Classic Movies, search the TCM schedule for airings.  Here is the link to the movie's information page on the TCM website: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/90494/A-Slight-Case-of-Murder/.

IN THEATRES - HUGO

Asa Butterfield on time in Martin Scorsese's HUGO

HUGO – Directed by Martin Scorsese 

 

 

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Chaplins.

{Opens Wednesday 23 November 2011}

Who would have thought that Martin Scorsese – the director who made such intense, violent and searing adult films as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Gangs of New York and The Departed – had the tender and graceful touch to create an enchanting and magical family film, and display a deft flair for 3-D?  Scorsese does just that with great aplomb in his new movie, Hugo.   Like a master illusionist who can awe an audience with skillful feats of legerdemain, Scorsese once again proves why he is a master filmmaker: Hugo captivates the imagination, weaves a web of wonder and reverberates with the love of the movies because Scorsese’s passion for movies and its history glows from every frame of this lovely film.   

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a 12-year-old wily orphan who lives in the walls and rafters of a Paris railway station (evoking another Hugo, the French author Victor Hugo, who’s Quasimodo, from his novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, lives a lonely life within the sanctuary of Paris’s great cathedral) in the early 1930s. Hugo keeps the station’s many clocks properly wound, in repair and always on time, a skill he learned from his late father (Jude Law).  Hugo’s alcoholic Uncle Claude (which is another allusion to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as Claude is name of the Archdeacon of Notre Dame who rescues and adopts Quasimodo), who adopted Hugo after the tragic death of the boy’s father, unloads his horologist job at the railway station to his nephew and all but abandons Hugo to drink.

Like a mouse living within walls, Hugo scampers through the infrastructure of the station, spying on the commuter activity and the shops of the station from the many hidden windows built into the clocks, searching for opportunities to scurry into public for stealing food and other necessary sundries.  Hugo is also in search of mechanical parts in order to fix an automaton – a mechanical man – that he inherited from his father, who in turn acquired it from a source who got it from an enigmatic figure.  If Hugo can repair the automaton and find the heart-shaped key that will turn it on, Hugo believes a secret will be unlocked left by his father.  When Hugo attempts to steal a mechanical toy, for its parts, from a toyshop in the railway station, the shop owner, an elderly man (Ben Kingsley), catches Hugo in his thievery, which begins an intertwining of both their lives in unexpected ways.  Hugo will befriend the toyshop owner’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), and with her help, they will discover that her godfather is the real French pioneer filmmaker, the magician of the movies, Georges Méliès, a forgotten artist of cinema who is now living in obscurity.  Hugo will go through an adventure of discovery that will profoundly affect himself and Méliès.

Director Martin Scorsese on the set of HUGO

Martin Scorsese is not only one of the greatest living film directors, he is also a film historian and a vital participant in the arena of film restoration and preservation.  He has made two essential documentaries about film history: A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies and My Voyage to Italy (an intimate and richly detailed exploration of Italian Cinema).  Scorsese also appears in countless documentaries, made by other filmmakers, discussing a variety of film history topics.  Hugo is redolent with Scorsese’s passion for film history and it is one of the driving forces of its narrative, as adapted by screenwriter John Logan from the award-wining novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. 

Hugo takes Isabelle to the movies for her first time; her Papa Georges and his wife, Jeanne (Helen McCrory), forbid her from attending the cinema.   The kids see the classic 1923 Harold Lloyd comedy, Safety Last!, and Isabelle is on the edge of her seat in suspense as Lloyd climbs the outside walls of a Los Angeles building and then hangs from the minute hand of a large clock.  This is one of the iconic images of silent cinema and we see the ecstatic delight it – and therefore all the great silent films – had on the original audiences of this era through Isabelle and Hugo’s reactions.  Later in Hugo, Scorsese successfully reimagines Lloyd hanging from the clock when Hugo finds himself hanging for his dear life during a chase scene.  

Other clips and images from silent cinema permeate Hugo, including snippets from D.W. Griffith’s monumental 1916 epic, Intolerance; Robert Wiene’s 1919 German Expressionist horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; and clips of Charlie Chaplin, to name a few.  The Lumière Brothers of France were pioneer filmmakers – they were the first to project movies on the big screen – and in Hugo we see clips of some of their short films (known as “actualités”, a primitive form of documentary, usually one-minute in running time), including their famous 1895 film, The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station. This Lumière film shows a train heading towards the movie camera, thus enlarging on screen rapidly.  Supposedly, the original audiences of this film panicked and ducked when they saw the train rushing towards them.  Scorsese creates his own version of the Lumière train shot in a remarkably vivid sequence that is the logical extension of what audiences imagined they saw back in 1895.  This sequence also draws inspiration from an actual train derailment the same year at Gare Montparnasse in Paris.

Scorsese profoundly manifests his reverence for film history through the character of Georges Méliès, movingly portrayed by Ben Kingsley.  Méliès was a French magician who became obsessed with the movies in the medium’s embryonic years.  He is arguably the first film pioneer to tell narrative stories and he is noted as the father of cinematic trick effects, most famous for his imaginative and beautifully art directed (Méliès designed and painted his sets) fantasy films.  His most famous and influential work is the first science-fiction film, A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune – 1902), loosely adapted from the Jules Verne novel, which contains one of cinema’s most famous images, a bullet-shaped rocketship crashing into the eye of the moon.  A Trip to the Moon is imaginatively integral to Hugo’s plot and its moon image a thematic motif.

A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune – 1902), directed by Georges Méliès

Scorsese’s most stunning work in Hugo comes in the loving, affectionate recreation of Méliès filmmaking years when the magician realized magical dreams on film in his Montreuil glass-walled studio.  These scenes are an important reminder of the early romance and adventure of filmmaking when the marvellous potential for the medium was being discovered for the first time in its nascent period.   Hugo, if nothing else, is a love letter to the movies.

Scorsese’s use of 3-D technology is remarkably sublime.  He never goes for the cheap in-your-face shots for the sake of the effect.  He uses 3-D to envelop the audience in the film’s environment, to embrace the characters, to enhance the drama.  The 3-D in Hugo is always subordinate to the story.  I have not been a fan of 3-D movies, but kudos to Scorsese for using the generally eye-thumping technique with the sensibilities of an artist and skilled storyteller.

If there is a flaw to find in Hugo, it is in the titular character.  Asa Butterfield is appropriately dramatic, in a subdued way, but he comes off too cold, too distant, and too withdrawn.  This problem stems from how the character was written, performed or directed (probably a result of all three).  These personality characteristics are all appropriate for Hugo, who leads a lonely, insular life, but his character arc is severely lacking and he remains an aloof character to the end.  It is only when Georges Méliès becomes more prominent in the film (about halfway though) that Hugo warms up and achieves a pathos that is so poignant, particularly when the notion of losing our purpose in life makes us kind of broken, is revealed as the theme at the heart of the movie. Ben Kingsley conveys such a delicate sincerity as a broken artist that this role will surely rank among his finest performances.

Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès

All the supporting performers are warm, engaging, humorous and human, especially Sacha Baron Cohen as the station inspector hobbled by one mechanically supported leg, who is also Hugo’s main nemesis, and Emily Mortimer as Lisette, the pretty flower shop owner that the station inspector is sweet on.  Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle, the young girl who helps Hugo on his journey, is a lovely presence.  Jude Law, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee (as a helpful bookstore owner) have little screen time and feel wasted for such strong actors, but I suspect they had additional scenes that were cut from the final film. 

Hugo is bravura filmmaking, a visually resplendent picture and a most original, entertaining, and ultimately rewarding family fantasy film that is among the best of the genre, standing tall with The Wizard of Oz, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Harry Potter movies.  Martin Scorsese and his creative team have put on screen something rare these days: a sense of wonder and enchantment wrapped in a dazzling display of technique wedded intrinsically to a delightful story, while teaching audiences about forgotten yet essential film history.  Hugo, like every other film in cinema history steeped in the fantastic, owes its legacy to works of Georges Méliès.   That Scorsese can remind us of this history and make a wonderful entertainment for all ages is an awesome magic trick that would make the old French illusionist proud.

Georges Méliès: Magician of the Movies

 

HUGO trailer

 

IN THEATRES - HANNA

Saoirse Ronan is Hanna

HANNA – directed by Joe Wright

 

 

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Chaplins.

{Opens in Vancouver theatres on Friday 08 April 2011}

Hooray for Hanna!  Here is an action-adventure movie that shockingly has brains, wry wit, a surprising soul, is artfully directed and pulsates with an electric edge.  Hanna, the titular character, is the most exciting and fascinating new action hero to hit movie screens in several years.  Stupendously played by Saoirse Ronan, Hanna is the 16-year-old female flip side of Jason Bourne: a lethal killer at a loss for her true identity.  As improbable as the plot is, Hanna is no super amped-up comic book action movie with its lead actress sealed in skin tight, low- cut outfits and firing semi-automatic weapons while never scuffing her stiletto pumps.  Hanna Heller (don’t think the screenwriters didn’t know what they were doing when they gave her that last name) is a vulnerable teenage girl, and like most teenagers, she is struggling to find herself, understand her identity, and come to grips with growing-up in a dangerous world, even if she can break your neck with one swift twist of your head.

Meticulously trained by her ex-CIA agent father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana), in the frigid countryside of North Finland, Hanna’s killer instincts and survival skills are honed to a razor’s edge.  Erik also educates Hanna in various languages and world history.  The only nod to anything representing a childhood for Hanna is her love of reading fairy tales.  All of this deadly training is for one purpose – a mysterious mission, and when Hanna is ready to take on this mission, her father activates a tracking device that calls the attention of steely-cold CIA operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), who sends forces to Erik’s cabin.  He is nowhere to be found, but they capture Hanna and she is brought to a secret CIA base in Morocco for interrogation.  Marissa is somehow connected to Hanna’s past and Hanna’s mission is connected to Marissa.  In a brilliantly conceived and executed break-out scene, Hanna escapes and finds herself lost in North Africa.  She comes to the attention of a Bohemian English family travelling in a van and they kindly help Hanna, but unknowingly put themselves in danger for doing so as Hanna is followed by Marissa’s sadistic henchman, Issacs (Tom Hollander).  Hanna’s enigmatic past is revealed when she meets her father at a Berlin rendezvous point where Marissa has tracked her down, culminating in a haunting girl-on-girl final confrontation.

What separates and elevates Hanna from your typical sound-and-fury Hollywood action movie is its very human subtext of a motherless, missed childhood in the guise of the teenage Hanna, who is moulded by her father in an image of his design for a vengeful purpose, and, albeit, for reasons so she can actually have a future.  This is all wrapped in a dream-like treatment with overt allusions to classic fairy tales.  There is no missing Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf or the relationship of Snow White and her wicked stepmother in the form of Cate Blanchett’s Marrisa Wiegler.  Director Joe Wright (The Soloist, Atonement) and his production design team create a fairy tale look in the beautiful opening sequences set in North Finland.  The home of Hanna and her father looks like a cottage the Seven Dwarfs would live in and the ethereal quality is only enhanced with the snowy atmosphere.  This fairy tale design is mirrored later on in a surreal, abandoned amusement park for the climax of the movie.  It is in this location where director Wright is bold enough to incorporate an astonishing image of Cate Blanchett and the oversized head of the Big Bad Wolf with gaping maw.

Joe Wright’s direction is confident, assured, stylish; never heavy-handed, confused or ostentatious.  How wonderful it is to watch an action movie that is made with loving detail to craft and graced with a touch of the poetic.  Wright, and his editor, Paul Tothill, respect the audience by not bludgeoning them with machine-gun editing and a barrage of thunderous noise.  The action scenes are tough, blunt, thrilling and scary while never punishing to the senses.  I was impressed by one particular fight scene between Eric Bana’s character and the CIA agents surrounding him for capture.  It is filmed in one continuous moving camera shot with not cuts.  You feel the urgency, the immediacy and the danger of this hand-to-hand combat scene based on expert choreographed stunt work photographed in an uninterrupted take.  This is rare to see in contemporary action films where fight scenes are cut-up in a mess of abstract movement.  Cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler photographs the movie with a keen sense of how the contrast of cool and warm light and expressive colour conveys Hanna’s feelings and senses. 

Sonically driving Hanna’s adventure is one of the best non-symphonic contemporary music scores I have heard in recent years.  The Chemical Brothers contribute an original electronic music score that crackles and roars with an eccentric grace without feeling disconnected to the story.  The score makes a nod to film history when a musical suite called “In the Hall of The Mountain King”,  from the 19th Century stage play Peer Gynt, is featured on the soundtrack, evoking Fritz Lang’s 1931 German Expressionist film, M, in which Peter Lorre’s child killer whistles that same tune whenever he hunts for his next victim.

The acting is generally superb throughout Hanna.  Eric Bana as Hanna’s father is understated and solid, if not given a lot to do.  Tom Hollander as Issacs, the nefarious henchman, is wonderfully despicable.  He looks like Perez Hilton with bleached blonde hair, but with skills more deadly than the lacerating celebrity reportage of the internet gossip monger.

The stand-out performances are Cate Blanchett and Saoirse Ronan.  Blanchett is across-the board outstanding in any role she takes on.  In Hanna she combines a subtly scary gravitas with fleeting moments of vulnerability.  In one brilliant turn – that you may miss if you blink – Marissa is interrogating Hanna’s grandmother (more Red Riding Hood metaphors) and when the grandmother mentions to Marissa that she could not possibly understand the bond between mother and daughter, Blanchett reacts in the slightest manner that massively betrays her character’s imperturbability.  This brief moment reveals that Marrisa may harbour some history and pain connected to Hanna.  It is, ironically, a moment where a nugget of sympathy is suddenly engendered for this villainess character and it swiftly deepens her mystery as much as Hanna’s.

Saoirse Ronan gives a simply breathtaking, heartfelt and powerhouse performance as the perfectly trained assassin who must “adapt or die”.  Her fragile, pale figure suggests a tenuous young girl, which emotionally she is, but she is as nimble as a spider monkey and as dangerous as a wolverine.  Ronan elicits a multitude of complex emotions, striking delicate notes of fear, longing, sexual awakening and kick-ass assurance.  She was the lone good thing about Peter Jackson’s pretentious 2009 allegorical misfire, The Lovely Bones, and in Hanna she proves, without a doubt, that she is an important talent to reckon with.

The climax of Hanna may be a foregone conclusion for many viewers, but it is also satisfying and nicely ties to the opening scenes of the movie.  The ending suggests a sequel – and perhaps a franchise – is to follow, and I want to see director Joe Wright and the screenwriters, Seth Lochhead and David Farr, continue Hanna’s story into her young adulthood and explore extreme themes of female empowerment in the spy game; for Hanna would make Jason Bourne and James Bond whimper like two little school girls.

 Trailer for Hanna