Saoirse Ronan on the run in Joe Wright’s Hanna
Something of a departure for director Joe Wright (Atonement), Hanna is a fun, action-driven thriller about a young girl (Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan) living in isolation with her father and raised from birth to be a merciless killing machine. When she decides for herself that she is ready, she is unleashed upon the world to carry out the mysterious mission for which she’s been trained.
The obvious point of reference here is probably Luc Besson’s The Professional, but it’s really more Kick-Ass by way of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. That’s a little misleading. Hanna lacks the smug smirk of the superhero number and there’s only a whiff of the flights of sci-fi fancy contained in Spielberg’s Little Robot Lost fable, but this is very much a fractured coming-of-age story built upon a lost childhood and infused with fairytale overtones. While Hanna has been programmed to kill, she’s unprepared for the emotional slings and arrows of living.
For her part, Saoirse Ronan delivers another solid performance; convincing as a cold killer and ass-kicker yet also believably emotionally fragile. Eric Bana isn’t given a lot to do as her father. He’s intentionally kept enigmatic throughout the film as mysteries about his true nature underpin the second half drama. On the other hand, Cate Blanchett is both enigmatic and borderline over the top as the Texas-accented intelligence operative who appears to be the target of Hanna’s relentless determination. She appears to be having a great deal of fun as she strives to remain one step ahead of Hanna, all the while tracking her down. Also terrific is Jessica Barden (wonderful as the bored teen troublemaker in Tamara Drewe) as a melodramatic teen on holiday (with hippie parents in tow) who shows Hanna a little bit about what it means to be a young girl in the 21st century. She injects a welcome note of color and humor into a story that is often stark and quietly grim.
Propelled by a nervy Chemical Brothers score and dreamily shot by Alwin Küchler (Morvern Caller, Ratcatcher, Sunshine), Hanna delivers an unexpectedly satisfying action kick from Wright, a man who is better known for period costume dramas. The action is deftly handled, mostly avoiding that irritating overly-edited style meant to fool you into thinking what’s happening on screen is more interesting, exciting and consequential than it really is. Though Hanna frequently favors style over reason, that style is refreshing. At times pleasingly impressionistic, it’s infused with the kinetic energy of well-drawn panels from a comic book.
While Hanna mostly focuses on action thrills, it’s important to note that director Wright has grander intentions. Aiming for the audience’s heart, he wants to move as well as excite. This is a good thing, unfortunately he doesn’t quite pull that part off. Hanna the character is a little too cold to completely earn your sympathy and for the emotional beats that would allow the film to fully resonate. However, even if he doesn’t quite live up to his own ambitions, Wright gets credit for trying and he’s still pulled off an energetic, entertaining and gorgeously shot thriller along the way. That’s a lot more than you usually get from movies that shoot for less.
Hanna. USA 2011. Directed by Joe Wright. Screenplay by David Farr and Seth Lochhead. Cinematography by Alwin Kuchler. Music score composed by The Chemical Brothers. Edited by Paul Tothill. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jessica Barden, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng. 1 hour 51 minutes. MPAA rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language. 4 stars (out of 5)
Filed under: Review
Tags: Alwin Kuchler, Cate Blanchett, David Farr, Eric Bana, Hanna, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Joe Wright, Olivia Williams, Paul Tothill, Saoirse Ronan, Seth Lochhead, The Chemical Brothers, Tom Hollander