Hanna Composed by The Chemical Brothers
Back Lot Music (2011)
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“The idea of making
HANNA an assassin’s fairy tale of sorts is a very intriguing notion
and ripe with musical possibilities,... which largely go unrealized.
Hanna, Bana, Foe, Fairy
Review by Christopher Coleman
With a Joe Wright film, we have come to expect creative storytelling,
memorable visuals, and soul pleasuring musical scores from the hands of
composer Dario Marianelli. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and ATONEMENT well rewarded
both director and composer in 2005 and 2007 respectively. In 2010,
Wright began to venture out, leaving the romantic shores of Jane Austen
and Iwan McEwan behind, to deliver the coolly received film, THE SOLOIST.
Despite the film's critical failure, Wright nonetheless maintained his
working relationship with Marianelli and gave us one of 2010's more
inventive scores. Wright's latest effort, HANNA, boasts a
brilliant cast of Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett in a
location-hopping, modern-day, fairy tale, that just so happens to have a
"Jason Bourne" playing the little princess. A brave and intriguing
But what sort of musical score would a movie comprised of such divergent
parts demand? For HANNA, Wright tests the waters of experimentation even
further by bringing on the famous DJ/Dance producers, THE CHEMICAL
BROTHERS, to score their first-ever picture. The big question, then,
is whether Wright's visual storytelling and the Brothers hard-edged,
electronic, explorations work well for a feature-length film and well
enough to make audiences happy ever-after.
That question is answered at about the 30 minute mark of the film.
If you haven't seen HANNA yet, it might surprise you that there actually
is no score for the first 30 minutes. Now, this is something I might
be inclined to complain about - but in truth, these scenes set in the
seclusion in or near the arctic circle are the most engaging of the film
and promise a more direct and traditional brand of storytelling than the
rest of the film delivers. As the story progresses “Little Assassin
Hanna,” who's lineage and existence appears dubious at best, must leave
the safety of her confines and is swept into a world she only knows
through books and her father’s instruction. She sets out on a
modern-day-Grimm-fairy-tale. Not only is Hanna thrust into a strange
new world, but Wright's choices in the telling of her tale, sweep the
audience along for the violently magical ride.
It is at that 30 minute mark that we get a taste of both the type action
that is to come and the obtuse angle at which the rest of this story will
unfold. In the midst of the frozen Finnish wilderness, alone, Hanna
faces the first tentacles of her nemesis and we get our first dose of THE
CHEMICAL BROTHERS wand waving. It is also at this very point that we
become painfully aware of the juxtaposition of music to the story. Here,
and throughout the film, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS are most certainly true to
themselves, providing an eerie mix of electronics that range from the
spacious to the jarring including: reversed samples, high-pitch vocals and
pulse-pounding beats, but are at odds with the movie's other components.
There's little in this film the warrants such a radically stylistic score.
While their sound is a great combination for a night at the club, it is a
much less desirable audio environment for a film that had promised a
concentrated and more traditional look at nuanced characters and the
dynamics between them.
Admittedly, there are a few tracks well worthy of your best head-bob, but
one need only look to THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ 2010 release of “Further” to
find a better stand-alone listen than HANNA provides. The musical element
that stays with you the longest is the little melody repeatedly whistled
by your unfriendly, neighborhood, henchman in the film and is found in
track 8 “The SandMan” on the soundtrack. The next most memorable track is
“Container Park” (19), which was smartly pre-released before the film and
used in the film’s trailer. The piece also, most adequately, underscores
one of the surprisingly few action sequences in the film.
There are a myriad of tracks which have almost no listening-value on the
soundtrack. Without the film’s context, they play as annoyingly brief
experiments in sound design. Tracks like “Chalice 1” (3), “Map Sounds/
Chalice 2” (5) and “Sun Collapse” (15), evoke images of a mutated Geiger
counter mating with burned out Atari 2600 or worse...with an Intellivision.
On occasion THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS will drop a hard-hitting dance or break
beat behind the synthetic chaos and thus provide some measure of a musical
skeleton from which the listener has something to mentally hang on to.
“Escape 700” (2), “Quayside Synthesis” (7), or “The Devil is in the Beats”
(11), would be of the better of such tracks. Now, while I would have
drooled over such cuts back in my high school days, I found them a bit
wanting now...and certainly out of place and far too attention-grabbing
when they do make an appearance in the film.
The idea of making HANNA an assassin’s fairy tale of sorts is a very
intriguing notion and ripe with musical possibilities,... which largely go
unrealized. However, the inclusion of a handful of pieces such as “Hanna’s
Theme” (1, 20), “The Devil is in the Details" (4), and the aforementioned
“The Sandman” do touch on the fairy-tale nature to some degree. This
“fairy tale d’assassin” does allow the Brothers to include some music-box
and calliope-like elements, which do fit well, but are too sparsely used
and under-developed. I'm convinced a more traditional approach would
have made more effective use of these ideas.
In the end, despite another visually arresting film, featuring some
exceptional actors, HANNA suffers a fatal split as THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
score wrenches attention away from the film, rather than further immerse
the audience in it. For those predisposed to the duo’s electronic stylings,
there may be much to like here, but I maintain that there are far better
musical efforts to be found in the Brothers previous releases, and when it
comes to the principle goal of an original film score, the music in HANNA
is painful failure.