Directed by Joe Wright (the terrible “Atonement”), this quirky, off-beat film is a spy/assassin film quite unlike any before. Existing somewhere in between the real world and dark fairy tale, the film is a bit lumpy and doesn’t always come off. For instance, Cate Blanchett’s character is woefully underdeveloped, and the actress has one of her few off-moments. Her southern accent is cartoony and fake, and she seems unsure as to whether her character exists solely in a fairy tale world (something in between The Evil Queen and The Big Bad Wolf) or the real world, or a combination of both, and her performance is all over the shop as a result.
With a screenplay by David Farr and Seth Lochhead (from a story by the latter), it is a film that begins far more interestingly than it ends, with a late film revelation about our main character’s purpose that is not only unoriginal (a certain Jessica Alba TV series springs to mind), but is dispensed with almost as soon as it is revealed. But if the destination isn’t quite satisfying, the journey is compellingly unusual, and certainly never dull. You might not quite love where it ends up, but you’re sufficiently intrigued the rest of the time to want to get there nonetheless.
Although the rather skinny and young Saoirse Ronan isn’t quite credible as a formidable presence in fights (and she certainly kicks multiple arses throughout the film), the action is nonetheless well-performed and the film is often exciting. The soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers isn’t exactly to my liking, but might remind one of “Run Lola Run”. It slows down a bit when Hanna encounters the hippie family vacationing in Morocco, where it becomes a kind of coming-of-age film meets fish-out-of-water film. But like I said, it’s never dull. There’s also terrific work by supporting actors Bana, Williams, Flemyng, and especially the very “Clockwork”-esque Tom Hollander, in a scene-stealing turn. Although I may have felt she was somewhat miscast, physically, Ronan nonetheless gives a strong performance that far eclipses her uninteresting work in “Atonement” and the material is certainly better than “The Lovely Bones”. She definitely nails the character’s blend of book smart yet somewhat violently socially awkward.
This is one of the more memorable films of 2011, whether it is a complete success or not. Why has Wright been toiling away with Mr. Darcy’s and frilly dresses up until now?