By Don Simpson | April 8, 2011
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
See Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) hunt. See Hanna shoot. See Hanna run. See Hanna kill! Kill, Hanna, kill!
When we first meet the titular Hanna, she is hunting reindeer for survival in the harsh wintry environment of snow-swept Finland. All the while, her father Erik (Eric Bana) challenges Hanna to kill better, run faster, and get stronger in order to protect herself from the big bad wolf…I mean, world.
We come to learn that Erik has shielded Hanna from the outside world ever since her mother died. Together they have been hiding completely off the grid in a secluded forest cottage in Finland while Hanna has been tirelessly training. Now 16-years old, Hanna begins to get itchy to experience more than just life with her father; so Erik promptly unearths a box — a transmitter of sorts — with a switch. When Hanna feels as though she is totally ready, all she needs to do is flip the switch. Erik warns Hanna that her life post-switch will not be easy. Hanna will have to go at it alone. There is an evil CIA agent, Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who is allegedly responsible for the three bullets that killed Hanna’s mother; once the switch is flipped, Marissa will know that Erik and Hanna are alive, and she will go to the extremes to hunt and kill them.
The switch is officially flipped and the game begins. Hanna is off, traveling from one exotic locale (Morocco, Spain, Germany) to the next with Marissa and her evil henchmen — the ridiculously flamboyant Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his two neo-Nazi sidekicks (Sebastian Hülk and Joel Basman) — never far behind. Run faster, Hanna! Run faster!
Hanna was raised in complete isolation; suddenly as a 16-year old she is catapulted into the modern world. (Hanna is a female coming-of-age metaphor on steroids as Hanna goes from being a sheltered little daddy’s girl to full independence in ten seconds flat.) She is remarkably intelligent and a hyper-polyglot; but when it comes down to it, Hanna is an empty vessel who must immediately begin to consume the wonders of the world around her with the same childlike naiveté of Being There‘s Chance and The Man Who Fell To Earth‘s Thomas. (Hanna welcomes electricity and magic with much trepidation, but she certainly adapts to navigating the Internet on a computer quickly enough.)
Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that Hanna has been training all of her life, not for her own safety, but for the sole purpose of killing Marissa. It is never really explained why Erik believed it to be prudent to raise a child to murder his nemesis, rather than doing it himself (something he seems more than capable of doing). I know I am not supposed to ask questions about this — I am supposed to sit back and be in awe of la petite femme fatale — but I really want to know why?
Before I proceed, I need to get something off of my chest: Saoirse Ronan is absolutely amazing. If not for her, I more than likely would have hated Hanna. Ronan’s high caliber of acting lifts this high octane “girl kicks ass” flick to somewhat respectable heights; it also helps that director Joe Wright admirably keeps Ronan in respectable attire, never once allowing the camera to sexualize her. Hanna quickly develops into a carefully nuanced character whose strength and rage actually seem logical; and except for her unrealistic speed and catlike reflexes, Hanna’s fighting skills seem relatively grounded and realistic. And, yes, it is nice to see a young, independent girl handle herself so skillfully in the real world as she takes on men two or three times her size, squashing them like little girlie ants.
Unfortunately, Wright (whose previous directing credits — Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist — could not be farther from the cinematic hyperactivity of Hanna) is presumably having too much fun providing the audience with a relentless shock and awe barrage of eye candy (some of which is quite magnificent, I must admit) to care about the narrative. Hanna, my friends, is a hyper-stylized action flick through and through. Most of the non-action sequences are inconsequential, except for Ronan’s eerily powerful presence which carries each and every scene. For one reason or another, some of the action sequences are better choreographed and directed than others. The editing and the visual bravado of the prison escape sequence alone is worth the admission price. Come to think of it, from the opening titles until Hanna emerges from the prison, Hanna is near perfect; but from that point onward, the film dillies and dallies way too much (with little meaningful plot development). The most disappointing action sequence of them all takes place during the [anticlimactic] climax at Grimm’s house in Berlin (a reference to the absurd fairy tales Hanna was raised with) which then leads directly into the incredibly predictable ending in which a big bad wolf metaphor falls flat on its furry face — too bad Hanna is not donning a red hoodie — and the opening lines of dialogue (“I just missed your heart”) turn out to be the most heavy-handed foreshadowing since Hitchcock.
There is very little music in Hanna, but as soon as each action sequence is about to commence the block-rockin’ beats of The Chemical Brothers are predictably raring to go. It is like clockwork, and it is all part of Wright’s annoying formula: music kicks in, a chase begins, then a fight, music stops, the scene ends. Unfortunately, the soundtrack (The Chemical Brothers’ lackluster attempt at German techno?) makes Hanna‘s action sequences play out a hell of a lot like Run, Lola, Run (analogies to Salt and Æon Flux are also just waiting to be noticed).
Last, but certainly not least…the accents! Hardly anyone in Hanna speaks in their native accent. (I trust that this is a purposeful decision on Wright’s behalf to add another level of falsity to the mix.) Blanchett speaks in an irritatingly inconsistent American Southern belle accent that lacks of any particular purpose other than to be like nails on a chalkboard. (The only aspect of Hanna that is more annoying than Blanchett’s accent is the Isaacs character, who fulfills every single cheesy cliché from the 1980s action film villain’s handbook…but not in a good way.) Bana’s German accent fares a little better but he constantly slips in and out of it. Really the only non-native accent that is truly convincing is Ronan’s (I would have never guessed she was born in New York and raised in Ireland).