The weather is turning cold in Sydney, and despite some unseasonable sunshine in the last few days, it must be time for the 58th Sydney Film Festival. Kicking off the festival tonight was Hanna, the new film from Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), already receiving rave reviews around the world and a solid box-office taking in its home markets.
The big buzz for the night was around the arrival of Cate Blanchett, star of Hanna and Sydney Film Festival patron. Also in attendance was Sophie Lowe, Brendan Cowell, Matt Day, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Saskia Burmeister, Rachael Blake, Tony Martin, Kerry Fox (who is also one of the SFF Official Competition Judges), Damian Walshe-Howling, Jan Chapman, Jane Campion, Gillian Armstrong, Sarah Watt (another of the Official Competition Judges), Katherine Hicks and Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty, which we will review very shortly).
Festival director Clare Stewart addressed the last of her Opening Night’s at Sydney’s State Theatre, after a five year stint in the job, and under her direction the festival has grown significantly in the last few years. Noting that choosing the films was simply a matter of choosing those that one fell in love with on a first viewing, the 161 films showing over the next 11 days at the Sydney Film Festival makes it clear that there is a lot of love in town right now.
Having established himself as a deft hand the costume drama/weepy film – with Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and The Soloist under his belt – Joe Wright may not seem like the obvious choice for the Bourne-junior antics of Hanna. Yet from the stunning opening photography of a winter wonderland from Alwin H. Kuchler (Sunshine), it is clear that this isn’t your average action yarn, and Wright isn’t your average director. While the core narrative of the titular young girl (Saoirse Ronan, The Way Back) trained in the wilderness by rogue agent Erik (Eric Bana, The Time Traveler’s Wife), only to re-enter society and take out her mother’s killer (the striking Blanchett as CIA agent Marissa), is reminiscent of The Long Kiss Goodnight or Salt. Yet buoyed by The Chemical Brothers thumping and sometimes jaunty score, recalling the similarly zeitgeisty tracks for Fight Club from The Dust Brothers, the combination of brutal action, luscious landscapes, surprising ‘fish-out-of-water’ comedy and some genuinely touching moments, Hanna is the kind of film that sticks it in and breaks it off.
Hanna will be released on 28 July 2011 in Australia from Universal.
The Turin Horse, LENNONYC, The Troll Hunter, Hobo with a Shotgun and Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest played concurrently on the opening night. For coverage of most of these films, and for more news and reviews from the Sydney Film Festival, keep checking back for our daily coverage of the 2011 event.