I won't tell you ‘Hanna’ is great, but it's great fun. Director Joe Wright’s latest is a revenge action flick that is deliberately preposterous and often morally reprehensible. It’s not high-art, nor is it especially logical, but it's a damn good entertainer, provided you don't take any of it too seriously.
It’s hard to believe that ‘Hanna’ is directed by the guy who made ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Atonement’, and it’s even harder to digest the fact that 16-year-old Saoirse Ronan makes Jason Bourne look like a wimp. It’s a shame that writers David Farr and Seth Lochhead saddled her with indigestible dialogue and preposterous situations. ‘Hanna’, unlike ‘Sucker Punch’ is not a film about hot girls with big guns. Saoirse (pronounced Ser-sha) Ronan stays in a remote Finnish jungle with her father Erik (Eric Bana) who trains her to become an unstoppable killing machine. Hanna is proficient in hand-to-hand combat, arms and ammunition, archery, Jujitsu and is pretty much devoid of emotion. Erik is revealed to be an ex-CIA operative, who then sends his daughter on a mission to assassinate a CIA honcho named Marissa (Cate Blanchett) and zip from Finland to Morocco to Spain with a purpose that's not entirely clear until the second act kicks in.
The action is brutal and uncompromising, and is elevated by the heart-pounding score by the Chemical Brothers. Joe Wright’s long tracking shots are delectable to behold – one fight scene filmed in a parking lot is particularly eye popping. Wright seems to have an outstanding vision for aggression, the chase scene in the tunnel underneath the CIA stronghold is filmed with pure amphetamine. I should, however, note that ‘Hanna’ takes a little while to get going, because Wright devotes the first 20 minutes to establishing the relationship between the father and the daughter. And there are colossal plotholes throughout - Wright cowardly tries to sidestep the obvious fate of some of Hanna’s characters, hoping we won’t remember to question him later. Moreover, just about anyone could devise the premise of ‘Hanna’. But the real measure here isn’t what happens but in how it happens.
Beneath the electronic music and intense imagery of ‘Hanna’ lurks a subtle (albeit ham-fisted) societal message – the protagonist is forced to deal with new elements such as family, friendship, love - difficult tasks for a person who has no compassion, a person who runs away, leaving friends behind to face the fate she has brought down upon them at the hands of her pursuers. Saoirse Ronan is an absolute powerhouse who effortlessly veers from being a child to an adult. It’s rather unsettling to see the skinny little child actress convincingly pull off a character that can snap a person's neck like a twig. Cate Blanchett’s steely gaze and Bana’s single shot fight scene are themselves worth the price of admission. Tom Hollander is surprisingly creepy as the sleazy hitman hired to take Hanna down.
‘Hanna’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s delightfully agile. It crams all the revenge rage it possibly can into 110 minutes without taking its eyes off Ronan and her beautifully intimidating performance. Do watch.
First published in DNA