Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Hollander.
If there was a genre for art house action movies, then Hanna would stand as the definitive example. This bruising, intelligent, suspenseful, visceral and fast-paced spy thriller from British director Joe Wright (best known for his art house hits Atonement and Pride And Prejudice) comes across as a frenetic blend of the punishing physical action of the Bourne series and the kinetic energy of Run Lola Run. And all set to the pulsating, driving score from the Chemical Brothers.
Erik Heller (Eric Bana) is a former CIA agent who has been hiding in the remote wilderness of Finland. For the past fifteen years he has been raising his young daughter Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, from Atonement, The Lovely Bones, etc) and training her to become an accomplished assassin. She is now ready to be sent back to civilisation. Her target is Erik’s nemesis Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), his former CIA handler. Wiegler is in the process of cleaning up loose ends and destroying all evidence of a top-secret project involving genetic engineering and the development of a breed of super warriors. Fifteen years ago she missed her opportunity to kill Eric and Hanna. Now they are out for revenge, which sets in motion a deadly cat and mouse game.
While Hanna may be skilled in deadly arts, she lacks social graces and the ability to interact with other people, as becomes clear when she meets a holidaying British family in Morocco. She befriends their surly and spoiled teenage daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden), who is the first person of a similar age that she has ever met.
Hanna is the first feature script written by Seth Lockhead and David Farr (the tv series Spooks), and it has an international flavour. The film also seems like a dark fairytale, and the film is liberally sprinkled with motifs from Grimm’s fairy tales. The film comes to a fitting conclusion at the Berlin home of Wilhelm Grimm. The action moves at a rapid pace from the snow covered wilderness of Finland to the deserts of Morocco and on to the modern city of Berlin, and rarely pauses for breath.
The chase sequences are suffused with energy, and Alwin Kuchler’s camerawork is quite stunning. There is some stylish direction from Wright, who also proves to be a surprisingly adept director of action. There is a superb fight sequence in an underground railway station that is shot in one long take.
Bana is very good as Hanna’s father, and he handles the physical aspects of his role convincingly. Blanchett, complete with a Southern accent, makes a suitably cold and chilling villainess. Tom Hollander is also very good as Isaacs, a sexually ambiguous, blonde haired, sadistic assassin, a villain straight out of the Bond movies.
But this is Ronan’s movie, and she is excellent and confidently plays her physically demanding role and proves every bit as capable as Kick-Ass’s pre-pubescent heroine in despatching villains. There are also some wonderfully realised moments when Hanna encounters some of the marvels of the modern world, like television, fluorescent lights and electric kettles.
In a marketplace where most action movies are being unnecessarily dumbed down for public consumption, Hanna stands out.