Movie Review: Hanna (2011)

Saoirse Ronan in Hanna
Photo: Focus Features

Hanna is electric. It’s exciting. It’s a mood piece filled with a pulse and the energy of life. And just upon seeing the trailers for Hanna you can’t help but think to yourself, This is from the guy that directed Pride and Prejudice? The answer is yes, it is. And the result is a film that provides immediate proof Joe Wright has more up his sleeve than corsets and long walks on the English countryside.

Teaming once again with Saoirse (pronounced SER-shah) Ronan, the young lady he directed to an Oscar-nomination in Atonement, the story centers on Hanna (Ronan), a young girl who’s lived her whole life to this point in the wilds of Finland with her father (Eric Bana). With no explanation for the situation they’re in we’re immediately thrust into the story.

Trained as an assassin from an early age, Hanna is deadly whether it be hand-to-hand combat, a bow or a gun. She’s Jason Bourne, but in the body of teenage girl. Quickly we hear the name Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), learn Hanna’s father is an ex-CIA operative and are bouncing from Finland, to Morocco to Spain as Hanna has a mission with an endgame that’s not entirely clear.

Propelled by a heart-pounding score composed and performed by the Chemical Brothers, Hanna rarely stops for a breather, but when it does is when the other side of this film begins to show its face.

Amidst the story of a girl on the run, Hanna carries a societal message, whether intentionally or organically as a result of its conceit. As Hanna branches out into the world, societal excess is clearly on display whether she is bombarded by modern day technology or slamming down game she’s hunted and skinned for breakfast. Her small conversations with Sophie (energetically played by Jessica Barden), an English tourist on vacation with her family (Jason Flemyng, Olivia Williams and Aldo Maland), resonate as Hanna’s clearly wise beyond her years when it comes to killing, but when it comes to knowing who she is and connecting with others she’s akin to a newborn, seeing the world for the very first time.

Ronan is a powerhouse. From Atonement to The Lovely Bones, you could say you’ve seen some growth in the young actress, but here she delivers on a whole new level. At once an adult and a second later a child. Fierce and innocent, it’s a character that defines her youthful career and sets the wheels in motion for her future.

Around her, Ronan is surrounded by talent. Beginning with Blanchett and her steely gaze as Marisa Viegler, the CIA agent that knows more than she’s letting on concerning a past that involves Hanna and her father. Bana is also given the task of playing the tough guy as well as concerned parent with a goal to protect Hanna and ensure she is able to live a life outside of the confined walls she was brought up in.

One of the pleasant surprises was a supporting performance by Tom Hollander (In the Loop), playing an assassin for hire of sorts, charged by Viegler to hunt down Hanna. Dressed in either a vintage track suit or tennis shorts and a polo, Hollander is menacing thanks to his straight-faced approach, impish glare and unassuming visage. His orders I won’t mention, though this is a movie as much about its story as it is about the jolt it gives you every few minutes as Hanna flees captors, evades her predators and stalks her prey as the score from the Chemical Brothers buzzes in your ear.

Hanna is about the fight for survival and the search for what it means to be human. What is it that defines us? What in life is necessary? Hanna asks the questions, offers a few answers but leaves you wanting much, much more.


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