I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it. The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it. When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since. To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.
Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are. Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice. With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast. The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.
Hanna Directed by: Joe Wright Written by: Seth Lochhead & David Farr (screenplay) Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, and Olivia Williams
Looking at a DNA report that concludes the subject is “Abnormal,” is probably the last thing a teenager needs to see. Though when said teenager has just finished disposing a handful of government agents like life were on the “Easy” setting, it may be the least of her worries. But Hanna (Saorise Ronan) still looks slightly wounded when looking at that piece of paper. It’s one of the few moments director Joe Wright stops to smell the emotion in this thrilling exercise in kinetic action.
Hanna begins in the arctic wilderness, where her father (Eric Bana) has kept and trained her since he went rogue from the CIA. She was bred for tactical assassinations, something he infuses with his own agenda. Hanna is tasked with taking down Marissa (Cate Blanchett) the woman he claims has killed her mother. Wright never lingers in loss or death in this film, putting Hanna in constant motion throughout. It is a vision of what last year’s Kick-Ass would’ve looked like had the subject been only focused on Hit-Girl and her father.
Atonement Directed by: Joe Wright Written by: Christopher Hampton (screenplay), Ian McEwan (novel) Starring: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, and Vanessa Redgrave
Atonement isn’t a time capsule for your grandparents. If you’re looking for the lavish period drama with the costumes as the stars, it’s gone with the wind. This movie, yet another adaptation of a well-received if faded from memory book, is a love story for the modern age; that is to say, a pretty damn depressing one.
The movie starts off on a perfect 45-minute grace note, setting up the passionate exchange between Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley). Cecilia is a wealthy daughter of an affluent family, Robbie is not. The thing that separates this fairly common class clash is bitter jealousy, brought along in the form of the innocent young Briony (Saoirse Ronan).