Movie Review: “Hanna”

Plus Let Me Down Easy at Philadelphia Theatre Company

I’ve become jaded. Okay, jaded is probably not the right word. But when you’ve seen thousands of movies—3,223 Netflix ratings and counting (Big. Effin. Nyerd.)—and hundreds of stage plays/musicals, it’s easy to be … well ,,, unenthused. Yet every so often, I see a work that catches me off guard. Something that is so unapologetically original that I can’t help but gush to everyone. So, this past week felt like an embarrassment of riches: I saw the can’t-stop-thinking-about-it thriller Hanna and the exquisite Let Me Down Easy at the Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Hanna begins with a white screen and the evisceration of a deer. We meet Hanna, played by Saoirse Ronan (pronounced Seer-shuh) and her ex-CIA father, Erik (Eric Bana). In a Scandinavian forest, Erik is raising Hanna to become a child warrior. One day, Hanna announces that she is ready. So she begins her bad-guy-killing mission to destroy her father’s CIA handler, Marissa (Cate Blanchett) and to learn her origin.

Directed by Joe Wright, who previously directed Ronan in Atonement, Hanna is simply electric. The lighting, the sets, the editing—this world is A Clockwork Orange dystopia. However instead of Beethoven’s Ninth, the action is punctuated by the electronica music of The Chemical Brothers.

Wright has assembled a flawless cast. Bana is the perfect father and soldier. Blanchett imbues Marissa with a creepy chill (the movie’s fixation on her perfect teeth is a random but memorable affectation). And while Blanchett’s wishy-washy Southern drawl at first distracts, I later questioned whether the true intent was to further obfuscate Marissa’s true past. But it is Ronan that makes this movie special. With her preternaturally mature talents, Hanna becomes a worthy successor to Hit Girl and Jason Bourne. When she finally comes face-to-face with Marissa, the scene is exhilarating—not just for the action, but the staggering technique of these actresses. Standing in front of each other, it’s like Cate is a reflection, a glimpse of the brilliant career ahead of Saoirse.

Over the period of nine years, Anna Deavere Smith conducted 300 interviews with people around the world. Culling 20 individual interviews, Smith created the one-woman show, Let Me Down Easy (playing at the Philadelphia Theater Company until April 10th). Using verbatim dialogue, Smith examines life and death and the transition in between. It is an effective and affecting show, and a profound examination of the failing U.S. health care system.

To say that Smith is a chameleon is not quite accurate. A chameleon simply changes its appearance. But Smith—using real words from real people—doesn’t simply change appearances, she changes souls. The effect is not to parody or to imitate the interviewees (which would have been easy when they include Lance Armstrong, Lauren Hutton and Ann Richards). Rather, Smith attempts to be the conduit, the medium through which these individuals can connect with a broader audience.

Anyway, the lesser-known people bring the heart to Let Me Down Easy. Like Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke, a physician who worked at Charity Hospital during Katrina’s aftermath. Or, Trudy Howell, the director of Chance Orphanage in South Africa who cares for HIV-infected children. Without Smith, most of these peoples’ stories may never have been told. But with Smith, these people—who truly are our friends, families, neighbors—can be heard.