Review: Hanna

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana

Director: Joe Wright

“What did your mother die of?”
“Three bullets.”

16-year-old Hanna has been brought up in the wilds of Finland by her father, Erik, and trained as an assassin to prepare her for the day she is ready to leave and explore the world outside. When that day comes, Hanna finds herself hunted by intelligence agent Marissa, who is intent on stopping Hanna discovering the truth about herself.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what an action movie made by a director previously known for period dramas and Jane Austen adaptations is like, here you go. Joe Wright, who gained much acclaim for 2007′s Atonement and not so much acclaim for 2005′s not-as-good-as-the-Colin-Firth-one version of Pride & Prejudice, wanders from his comfort zone for this bizarre mix of spy thriller and Grimm’s fairytale. Welcome to the weird world of Hanna.

As with last year’s George Clooney vehicle, The American, those who choose Hanna expecting a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute action flick are going to be a little disappointed, not to mention somewhat perplexed. Hanna seems intent on defying expectations from the off, but that doesn’t mean it fails within its chosen genre. It just does things a little differently. Rather than assault us with a barrage of action scenes, Hanna sprinkles them sparingly on an otherwise thoughtful and languid story. So, when events spring to life, accompanied by the pounding Chemical Brothers soundtrack, you are obliged to take notice.

Following the current trend for using Europe as the setting for espionage movies, Wright still manages to make his movie look different to the rest. From the opening moments in Hanna’s beautiful snowbound home to the bookend scene in an abandoned carnival in Berlin, Wright lends the movie an almost otherworldly quality. This is the world we know, but just a little off-kilter, a little surreal. It is the perfect palette for painting this dark fairytale.

Hanna’s ‘I Hate Ska’ T-shirt didn’t go down well in Camden

Saoirse Ronan is a commanding presence in the title role, able to display all the wonderment and emotion on Hanna’s face as she discovers the world, and then switch it all off when the killer emerges. Eric Bana is his usual likeable self as Hanna’s protective and equally dangerous father. Tom Hollander is frankly bizarre, and not very threatening, as a bleached blonde, possibly gay, rent-a-thug with neo-nazi skinheads in tow. However, the genuine threat comes from Blanchett, clearly enjoying herself in the ‘wicked witch’ role as the sinister, embittered and manipulative agent hunting Hanna down.

If there is a fault in Hanna, and unfortunately it’s a pretty big fault, it is one of style over substance. While the movie looks lovely, and clearly draws from a plethora of influences, it is strangely difficult to find any emotional attachment to the characters, especially Hanna herself. This often leaves you with one foot out of the picture, less invested in the fate of the characters than you should be. It’s an odd development for a director more recognised for character-driven pieces.

Still, for its beautiful visuals, cracking soundtrack and the simple pleasure of watching a 16-year-old girl opening a can of whup-ass on a bunch of tough guys, Hanna is well worth your time.

Rating – 3 Stars

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13 people thought reading “Review: Hanna” would be a good idea. Stranger still, they left messages...

    1. Richard Post author

      What I meant to say was not-as-good-as-the-Colin-Firth-one-which-wasn’t-a-movie version of Pride & Prejudice. ;-)

      Reply
  1. Custard

    Nice words my friend, I love the image you used and the tag line, always here to make me giggle!!

    I am quite up for this film when it filters through to Blu Ray. The sound track sounds awesome too. Seem that it is the fashionable thing to do now isn’t it?

    Been away for a week, but I am back now in the land of blog and ready to get a wiggle on!!

    C

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Welcome back, C. It’s nice to know I generate some chuckles out there in the world. :-)

      I’ve been a little busy but I promise I’ll get over to Front Room Cinema soon.

      Reply
  2. Helen

    The old Europe fairy tales inspiration demanded the old Europe setting, don’t you think?

    I was surprised that the movie wasn’t more emotionally engaging given the heightened emotionalism of Wright’s prior films. On the other hand I’m not sure it was trying for that. I did care about what happened to Hanna though (for which I give most of the credit to Ronan).

    “What did your mother die of?”
    “Three bullets.”

    That was a great exchange. I also loved Erik’s response when Marissa asks him why he picked this time to come out of hiding.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      You’re absolutely right about the setting, Helen. Good point. And I think a lot of the credit for any emotional engagement was due Ronan. She was definitely the best player in this.

      Reply
  3. Castor

    Nicely written review Richard. I kind of skipped this in theater but look forward to it on DVD if only because it feels a bit different from the usual fare. I also get the feel from the trailer that it’s a pretty “cold” movie that doesn’t feel too emotionally resonant. I guess I will be satisfied if there is solid action and suspense ;)

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Thanks, Castor. I hope you’ll be satisfied with it since there is a little of both. A little. ;-)

      Reply
  4. ruth

    Hi Richard, I think lots of people (including me) share your sentiment that whilst the movie is good, it lacks heart. I get it that Joe Wright wants to make a compelling action thriller that’d make us forget he’s the same guy who made P&P and Atonement, but really, a bit of warmth can’t hurt. In the end, I appreciate it, but I wasn’t all that invested in any of the characters.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      I guess he just needs to learn to accomodate both virtues in one movie, you know? He’s never going to be Michael Bay, and that isn’t an insult.

      Reply
  5. Dan

    I think the emotional detachment from the characters would definitely throw me out of the film. Good review Richard. I haven’t seen this but it does sound interesting despite its flaws.

    Reply

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