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The Essentials: 5 Amazing Joe Wright Scenes You Need To Know

by Drew Taylor
November 15, 2012 1:14 PM
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Hanna – The Subway Showdown
There's a moment, right before the third act really kicks into high gear, in Wright's "Hanna" -- a quasi-science-fictional tale of a young girl (luminous "Atonement" co-star Saoirse Ronan) trained by her father (Eric Bana) to become a killer -- where Bana's character, fleeing CIA goons, descends into a German subway station. The camera tracks him as he leaves a building, past posters adorned with eyes, scribbled or sprayed in graffiti (symbolism ahoy!), and agents trying their best to look inconspicuous but failing miserably. (At one point Bana looks back at them and they try to appear casual but end up looking like a menswear model from a fifties mail order catalogue.) When Bana gets down into the subway, the camera swirls around him as the goons make their advance. Bana incapacitates them handily, as The Chemical Brothers' brilliant score blares, stabbing, shooting, and generally kicking their asses.

What makes this sequence so thrilling is that, with the unbroken shot and the balletic camerawork, you know for sure that it's Eric Bana and not some dude from the stunt team doing all the work. It makes things more immediate and dangerous, with the camera oftentimes feeling like one of the agents trailing Bana (Brian De Palma understood this brilliantly). The sequence is the slickly realized antithesis to Paul Greengrass' shaky-cam intensity, which occasionally borders on seizure-inducing cubism (Wright consulted with Greengrass before taking the gig; Sam Mendes would do the same thing before signing on to "Skyfall").

The subway sequence is the last big bravura moment in "Hanna," which from here until the bloody climax, is choppier but also more breathlessly adrenalized. This is a brief and still incredibly violent pause (photographed by European cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler and a king of a Steadicam operator) before things really start to vroom. And it's totally amazing. 

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  • | November 18, 2012 11:04 PMReply

    Great choices.

  • Jim | November 16, 2012 6:39 PMReply

    Don't want to sound like a killjoy but, technically impressive and overwhelming as the Atonement tracking shot is, I felt that was by far the weakest part of the movie and all the wonderful stuff from the book got jettisoned in favour of this kind of stuff. When Robbie goes to France, he meets people, they have conversations and there is real jeopardy - what's more, I know they filmed all this - but in the end it all got cut and only this set piece really remains. It's a shame because on paper the Dunkirk scenes are just as powerful, if not moreso, than the country house scenes, but the movie is really lopsided. I was really disappointed after Wright's first act is absolutely brilliant.

  • MJ | November 17, 2012 10:31 AM

    The tight-editing helped Wright's film stand as its own piece & I admire it for that, besides we do get more of Robbie in France than just the Dunkirk scene.

  • Piotr | November 15, 2012 3:12 PMReply

    Not to hate, but I thought that Hanna subway sequence had a little too much CGI in the actual fighting. Took away from the impact of the moment when you can obviously see on screen it's not Bana doing those things. Wright is dope with camera movement though.

  • MJ | November 17, 2012 10:32 AM

    I think the scene where Hanna escapes from the bunker or the showdown in the abandoned 'fairy tale forest' always get shafted when only the subway sequence is highlighted.

  • Joao | November 15, 2012 2:39 PMReply

    I absolutely adore him! And I can't wait to see 'Anna Karenina'! But I wonder if 'The Little Mermaid' will still happen...

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