Amidst the Arctic Circle’s barren snowcaps, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) hunts. With nothing more than a bow-and-arrow, she kills a deer, although to her disappointment, she missed her mark — the creature’s heart. She finishes the job with a pistol — a stare down with the animal’s bloodshot eyes revealing a sense of humanity and sympathy, despite the brutality of her surroundings. However, there is no time for mourning, as her father, Erik (Eric Bana), reminds her, revealing the importance of thinking on one’s feet — especially in these conditions. We learn that he’s been training his daughter in martial arts and firearms, alongside drilling the contents of an encyclopedia into her head every night. But what’s the purpose of disciplining Hanna to such an extent — what’s the usefulness of the young girl being able to recite Germany’s estimated population and speak fluently in several languages if there is no one else to share it with? That, Erik explains, is the role of a transponder that he plops in front of the girl. “If you want to leave, then press it,” he proclaims before warning that if she does, “there will be no going back.”
In his new film, Hanna, director Joe Wright (The Soloist, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) branches out, crafting a solid revenge thriller that combines entertaining action and the fairy-tale sensibilities of the Brothers Grimm stories that the eponymous heroine adores. Unfortunately, although screenwriters Seth Lochhead (One of Those Days or: How Do I Get a Mark on My Forehead) and David Farr (MI-5) take great care in weaving together an intricate plot that slowly explains why the duo have been pushed out of society, the big reveal doesn’t do Hanna justice — it makes sense and is somewhat plausible, but there still feels like something’s missing — a bit of soul left forgotten.
That notwithstanding, Hanna’s journey from isolated cabin to sleazy cityscapes has its interesting moments — largely due to Wright’s direction. In combination with The Chemical Brother’s signature soundtrack, a haunting orchestra of synth-beats and drums, and mesmerizing camera shots and editing (all of which have excellent cohesion), Hanna retains entertainment value, even when its narrative begins to dampen.
But the cast delivers each line with vigor throughout. That includes Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), who commands the screen as Marissa, a ruthless CIA agent hell-bent on capturing the girl, while hiding her own twisted intentions from coworkers. Also in the role of a villain is Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) as Isaacs, a club-owning thug whom Marissa enlists the help of. The actor adds another layer of creepiness (channeling his inner Malcolm McDowell), constantly brutalizing his victims, while remaining undeniably fashionable in the latest gym suits and whistling a nightmarish show-tune.
Regardless, the star of the show is Ronan, a talented young face, whose previous performances managed to save stinkers such as The Lovely Bones and The Way Back. As Hanna, the actress displays a sense of danger, while retaining the character’s childlike innocence. Her delivery is oftentimes flawless.
Wright’s latest is an engaging departure from his earlier work. Undeterred by the feeling that it could have been even better, Hanna draws inspiration from films like A Clockwork Orange, by establishing an intoxicating world full of sin. And watching the oblivious Hanna interact with this corruption is just as intriguing as watching her single-handedly escape a high-security prison.