Hanna (2011)


Director:  Joe Wright
Cast:  Saoirse RonanCate BlanchettEric Bana 
Plot:  A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

Genre:  Action / Crime / Mystery
Awards:  -
Runtime:  111min
Rating:  PG for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language

If there is one thing that Hanna proves, it is that Joe Wright is actually quite a versatile director. After doing period pieces with classical overtones such as the acclaimed Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), and a modern story about a friendship between a journalist and a musician in The Soloist (2009), he tackles mainstream action cinema with a tinge of indie credibility. 

Out comes Hanna, an action-thriller that is hard to classify as a traditional Hollywood popcorn movie. It is uniquely done, though inspired by a host of films that have come before it. It is technically brilliant but it is not a brilliant film.

Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan as the young title character. She is raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) to be a ruthless assassin in a secluded snow-capped mountainous region. An American intelligence agent, Marissa (Cate Blanchett), and her operatives attempt to find and kill her fugitive father, while Hanna must discover the sinister truth of her existence. 

The story plays out quite straightforwardly, but its execution is far from conventional. The characters are stereotypical, but at least they are intriguing. Ronan’s performance here is mature and at times breathtaking; there is no doubt of her ability to front a film of this nature.

Hanna is like Run Lola Run (1998) meets M (1931) meets Leon: The Professional (1994). But it’s not as memorable as any of those films. The constantly moving camera coupled with the tight, frenzied editing style provide Wright’s film with a dose of energy that miraculously does not dissipate. 

The film is highly engaging, though it is due more in part to its frenetic, and at times, surrealistic visual style than its narrative. The violence is impactful but mostly off-screen. There is a trademark long take by Wright that sees Erik followed by armed agents into an empty subway where he overcomes them effortlessly.

The action is realistic for most parts, except for a single shot at the start of the second act that sees Hanna escaping from an underground bunker through a man-made hole in the middle of the desert. Incredibly, she latches onto the underneath of a fast moving vehicle like Spidergirl. Any more “believe it or not” moments like that, and I would have been disappointed. 

To make his film more kick-ass, Wright temporarily relinquishes the services of classy composer Dario Marianelli and opts for electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers to score Hanna. Their music not only packs a punch, it also captures the fairy tale-like whimsicality of the film, especially of its second hour.

I must admit though that any effort by the filmmakers to develop the human emotional drama in the film is rather futile in the wake of the superb, overwhelming technical artistry on show. While the acting is considerably strong for an action picture, its treatment of the characters and their relationships with each other remain distanced from the viewer. 

This is what gives Hanna its major flaw, which is not much of a big deal if you are in for the thrill, excitement, and fun. Does anyone fancy Wright teaming up with Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, 2010) to produce Hanna v. Hitgirl: The Battle of Daddy-Trained Young Girls, to be directed by who else but Quentin Tarantino?

Verdict:  There's a fairy tale-like whimsicality to Joe Wright's surprising attempt at an action film.


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