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Review: Senna, Hanna, Footrot Flats - The Dog’s Tale, Final Destination 5 and The Double Hour

By September 7, 2011September 14th, 2023No Comments

Despite my pos­it­ive review for TT3D last week, I’m not a huge motor­s­port fan. In 1996 I worked on the last Nissan Mobil 500 race around the water­front and couldn’t see the appeal of watch­ing cars go belt­ing around the same corner over and over again. In that race you couldn’t even tell who was win­ning, it was all such a blur. In fact, the only time I’ve ever watched Formula 1 was when I chan­nel surfed on to some late night cov­er­age one Sunday night in 1994 just before going to bed. Two corners (about 30 seconds) later, Ayrton Senna was dead. It was pretty freaky, let me tell you.

So, I knew (as all audi­ences must) that Asif Kapadia’s bril­liant doc­u­ment­ary Senna was going to end in tragedy. What I didn’t know was how riv­et­ing it was going to be from begin­ning to end. Senna works because it is first and fore­most a por­trait of a com­pel­ling char­ac­ter – a cha­ris­mat­ic, con­fid­ent but humble young man who under­stood the risks he took and fought to bal­ance those risks with his innate desire to race and race hard – but when the polit­ics of Formula 1 took the con­trol of those risks out of his hands there you could see there was only going to be one result.

Using only archive foot­age, with no nar­rat­or and no talk­ing heads – the story is told through audio inter­views with many of the char­ac­ters – Senna is exem­plary doc­u­ment­ary storytelling and one of the very best films of the year.

Joe Wright’s globe-trotting thrill­er Hanna is prop­erly puzz­ling. After due con­sid­er­a­tion I think I like it but I can ima­gine some view­ers find­ing the abrupt shifts in tone and the unex­pec­ted (and argu­ably unearned) comed­ic moments too dis­tract­ing. Hanna (Saoirse Ronan from The Lovely Bones) is a teen­age girl, liv­ing in a remote cab­in some­where in the Arctic Circle with dad Eric Bana. He’s a former spook who some­how escaped when dodgy CIA oper­at­ive Cate Blanchett turned on him when Hanna was just a toddler.

Ever since then he’s been plot­ting his revenge and Hanna is to be the instru­ment of it. She’s a killing machine, trained for one pur­pose and once unleashed she com­mences her mis­sion with com­mend­able single-mindedness. Except the out­side world sur­prises her, and the people she meets (the ones not try­ing to kill her, at least) sug­gest her fath­er has missed out a lot about the pos­it­ive side of human nature and what it feels like to be a teenager.

So, the film altern­ates between well-constructed viol­ent action set-pieces (fea­tur­ing an often pun­ish­ingly loud soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers) and the coming-of-age char­ac­ter stuff. The ques­tion then becomes which strand of the story will decide the character’s fate. There’s a lot to enjoy in Hanna, not least Wright’s intel­li­gent use of unusu­al loc­a­tions, but it ulti­mately feels like an oppor­tun­ity missed. At the begin­ning (and the end) Hanna says to a char­ac­ter she’s just shot, “I just missed your heart” and that goes for the film as a whole too, I think.

I’d like to com­mend Event Cinemas for cel­eb­rat­ing the 25th anniversary of the Kiwi clas­sic Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tail Tale by put­ting the new digit­ally cleaned up ver­sion back on the big screen for a couple of weeks. I hadn’t seen it since it first opened at the Embassy back in 1987 and was pleased to see that the anim­a­tion had scrubbed up pretty well and that the humour remained intact. There are many pleas­ures, not least (greatest liv­ing New Zealander) John Clarke’s lugubri­ous vocal per­form­ance as Wal.

It’s good to be reminded that there was a time when one of the main plot threads in a New Zealand movie could be the impend­ing vis­it of an All Black select­or to watch the annu­al grudge match between Raupo and The Mill Team. Like anoth­er Herbs’ song (from the same era as Footrot Flats’ “Slice of Heaven”) once said so sagely: “Long ago, was so long ago.”

Final Destination 5 is best described as a Final Destination film. Like the Saw movies, it knows that suc­cess or fail­ure is built on meet­ing audi­ence expect­a­tion – any­thing over and above that is gravy. For the unini­ti­ated, the premise is simple: good look­ing young per­son has a pre­mon­i­tion about an impend­ing dis­aster and saves his good look­ing young mates from oth­er­wise cer­tain death. But some­how they’ve cheated fate and one by one, in ways that could only have been inven­ted by ACC ad cam­paign copy­writers, they get what’s com­ing to them.

Unlike the Saw films, though, their fate isn’t dic­tated by char­ac­ter or beha­viour. These are ordin­ary (good look­ing) cit­izens who are not being pun­ished for prim­al sins or deep per­son­al­ity flaws. The mes­sage is simple: some­where there’s a badly main­tained air con­di­tion­ing unit with your name on it. And there’s noth­ing you can do – being a bet­ter per­son isn’t going to save you. Which is a pretty ugly and dra­mat­ic­ally unsat­is­fy­ing mes­sage when you think about it.

Italian thrill­er The Double Hour played in last year’s Film Festival so my memory is hazy, but as I recall I thought its twists and turns weren’t clev­er so much as cheat­ing by need­ing large amounts of audi­ence credu­lity. A lonely hotel cham­ber­maid (Ksenia Rappoport) starts a pas­sion­ate rela­tion­ship with ex-cop Filippo Timi after they meet speed dat­ing. He’s a secur­ity guard for an Italian bil­lion­aire and while they are dal­ly­ing up at his coun­try house they are robbed and beaten. She loses her memory, he loses his job, and then we get to see a plot ravel and unravel, end­ing with an res­ol­u­tion you will either buy or you won’t. I didn’t.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 7 September, 2011.