Director: Joe Wright
Screenplay: Seth Lockhead & David Farr
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemying
BBFC Classification: 12A
Wow, Hanna is a welcome jolt of creative energy to the action genre. Part coming of age drama, part fairytale styling and part full throttle action, Joe Wright’s film sure mashes its genres but it manages to blend them into a totally entertaining and often emotionally stirring concoction. Thrust straight into events, the flick opens in the harsh lands of the Tundra. Here a father (Bana) trains his young daughter, Hanna (Ronan) in the arts of survival, fighting and killing. Living this existence since she was a small child, Hanna is the perfect assassin. Her father, a former operative in hiding, has one mission for her: to kill Marissa (Blanchett), his former employer and the killer of Hanna’s mother. So, Hanna is unleashed into the big wide world and when she ends up on the run, after the mission goes wrong, she finds herself hunted and dealing with a world, and all the emotions and sensations that come with it, she has never experienced before.
Thrillingly staged from the get go, Hanna breathes life into the thriller, injects some much needed adrenaline into the action genre and shows we can actually have characters who go through changes and develop as the plot rockets along. The heart of the story is Hanna herself, a tightly wound deadly weapon who is unleashed into an exciting new world. As much as the film is about revenge, rogue assassins and barnstorming action it is also about the plight of Hanna. After she fails to kill Marissa, Hanna is on the run in a world she doesn’t know. Shacking up with a bohemian family (handily on a driving holiday and conveniently ok with a teenage girl in a foreign country on her own tagging along with them), Hanna begins to experience what the life of a normal 15 year old is like. She manages to emerge from her hardened shell and it’s Wright’s deft hand (having helmed the like of Atonement and Pride & Prejudice) along with Ronan’s incredible performance, that Hanna’s scenes of “growing up” and finding herself are handled with maturity and sensitivity. She becomes more than a pint sized killer and she battles her emotions as much as she does never-ending swarms of bad guys.
However, all this being thrust into the big wide world and discovering one’s self is perhaps let down a tad by the overbearing fairytale motif. Sure, this creates a unique and sometimes scary world that Hanna has to navigate (and makes the whole idea of a teenage girl being a deadly killer a little easier to buy into) but is perhaps laid on a little thick (evil Cate Blanchet emerging from the mouth of a big bad bad wolf!) as if we are being constantly reminded that this is no run-of-the-mill action film. And while it might not be, it certainly is an often thrilling action film. Crafting some corking action and fight scenes, Wright proves himself quite the talent at staging spectacle without having to resort to CGI or too much quick cut editing. From Hanna’s daring escape from a high tech facility, to the one take stalk and fight sequence with Bana to an incredible set piece where Hanna plays hide and seek with her pursuers among the giant crates of a dock, the action is fluid and excitingly staged and all backed by a superb Chemical Brothers soundtrack. In fact, the above mentioned dock sequence may be the best combination of action, tension and music we see all year.
Not everything hits the right note though. Along with the laid on thick fairytale angle, the flick is perhaps a little too ambiguous on occasion as well. Certain motivations and actions are left ambiguous for no apparent reason, meaning events don’t always reach a satisfying conclusion. Nothing wrong with letting the audience fill in the blanks but here the ambiguousness is unnecessary and is fast becoming an overused style by “serious” filmmakers. But with so much that is good going on and great performances from the entire cast (including a very creepy Tom Hollander) Hanna still proves to be an original and exhilarating piece of high(ish) brow action entertainment.
Review by Andrew Skeates