Jul 26, 2011

Review: Hanna

Director: Joe Wright
Release Date: 28 July 2011
Rating: (M)
Runtime: 111 mins

Joe Wright, who gave us Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist now branches into his first feature not adapted from a novel with the tale of Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), a 16-year-old girl who's been trained in defence and attack techniques by her ex-CIA operative father (Eric Bana) for some very curious reasons. You may have noticed that unlike the press release, we're not calling her an assassin.* 

The film opens deep within the forest where both the snow and the opportunities for Hanna to perfect her training are plentiful. She is a strong, beautiful girl, but her relationship with her father seems at first strangely detached, especially given they only have each other to depend on in the icy wilds. 

The very literal 'Hanna, you must flick the switch, in order to activate the tracking device to alert the CIA deliberately to our whereabouts' is clunky and a rather too convenient way to start the chase.The characters triangulate, if you will, when current CIA woman-of-action Marissa (Cate Blanchett) learns of their continued existence and initiates a ballsy mission to hunt them down at any cost. This objective, in opposition to Erik (Bana) and Hanna's plan to meet in Berlin and start anew (fresh passports waiting) seems like the perfect counterbalance in the script to create friction and make the battle worth fighting. How we only wish that were true.

Aesthetically and rhythmically, Hanna is very, very pleasing for those who are fans of the Run Lola Run and Bourne thrillers. All of the chase scenes are lit and shot as if this were a techno music video; the use of white lights and the strong, pulsating score (by The Chemical Brothers, no less) make these scenes truly gripping and entertaining. It seems a departure for Wright, but no complaints on this front.

However, the problem with Hanna is in the world they have created, which doesn't allow Hanna herself to reveal more about what makes her tick, despite the fact that Jackson and Wright favourite Saoirse Ronan is a prodigious acting talent. The reveal on the reason for this distance comes too late in the piece and means we can't empathise and invest emotionally in these characters. Erik is the best of the lot of them; he truly seems to love Hanna and would do anything to protect her. Blanchett's Marissa is inscrutably vicious, but there are worse things: the accent comes to mind, even taking billing over the scene of her brushing her teeth until her gums bleed.

Hanna, you just missed our heart.


*That's why you should never read press releases (the best don't; Anthony Lane, et al.); they tell audiences how they should interpret the film, instead of allowing them their own reaction and interpretation—they also give the feeling, quite often, that the person writing the press release hasn't actually seen the film.