Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett.
This very offbeat film straddles a thin line between drama and thriller, between punk rock filmmaking and a regular chase film, esoteric and mass appeal, and comparisons with films like Leon are inevitable. It’s remarkable in many ways but Hanna isn’t consistent in its visual treatment or storyline. The Chemical Brothers score is half the movie, which could have been cult but isn’t quite.
British director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) switches genres to experiment a tad with an action/thriller. We’re glad he does because with Hanna he has given us a glimpse of a talent that with a bit more honing will churn out some interesting stuff. Sure there are comparisons online about this film and The Bourne Identity, and the more relevant Luc Besson’s Leon (with a fantastic young Natalie Portman) and a couple of other genre films. Which is just it. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge.
Hanna (Ronan) and her ‘father’ Erik (Bana) are in hiding in the icy woods of Northern Finland where you surmise she’s being trained by Erik to defend herself and maybe even kill someone when the time comes. She wields the bow and arrow, a gun, juggles several languages with ease and thinks on her feet, even while sleeping.
Then all of a sudden, well rather by their own design, they are the centre of attention of an underground American Federal organisation that wants Erik killed and Hanna captured. The fiery red-headed head of the team, Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett), with her Southern accent that changes into German in this multilingual chase, is akin to The Wicked Witch (reference to The Wizard Of Oz) in her zeal and machinations to capture Hanna. But Hanna has another plan, which includes killing Marissa, overcoming a dozen beefy armed guards and hitchhiking with a family of ‘gypsies’.
Hanna starts off admirably, the pulsating score, the psychedelic treatment and aura of intrigue are in right measure. Wright’s use of The Chemical Brothers’ ramped up score elevates the action scenes brilliantly. Saoirse Ronan, pale and poker-faced through most of the film, balances her killer-instincts with her inherent innocence marvellously. She’s a terrific actress as we’ve seen in films like Atonement, The Way Back and The Lovely Bones. Blanchett is pure evil. She’s so good at being bad I want to see her do more dark roles. Eric Bana is his usual stiff self though but as long as you throw in shots of him half naked I guess he’s bearable.
The thing is that Hanna sort of plateaus during the middle half and the visual wizardry we saw in the beginning sorta gets lost. The goons chasing her aren’t really believable and look deliberately kitschy and camp to give the film that weird vibe — mnemonic cues like the whistling of the bleached blonde baddie don’t really work. Someone said it’s a modern fairytale, but I didn’t really see the happy ending or the moral of the story accept that genetic modifications aren’t a good idea. But we’ve seen and heard that before haven’t we? Some of the scenes seem over-dramatic and you get the feeling director Wright thought the music would lend a sort of surreal quality to them that would mask the over-the-top stuff. Only half true.
Still, Hanna accomplishes to take a formula story and turn it into something dreamlike and edgy. You should still watch it though.