While there are some holes in “Hanna”, director Joe Wright doesn’t let them interrupt the overall enjoyable experience of the film. Known for period movies where he dotes on scenic landscapes, he takes this opportunity to prove himself a thoroughly modern director here.
Hanna. Directed by Joe Wright. The cast includes Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Tom Hollander.
By Sarah Sanders
Trained to be the perfect assassin by her father, Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) stars as the titular Hanna in this intelligent action thriller. Raised in isolation in the wilds of the Arctic Circle by her ex-CIA father Erik Heller (Bana), Hanna has but one mission: to find and kill Marisa Viegler (Blanchett), Heller’s former handler who wants Hanna dead. She sets out across Europe to bring down Viegler, whose own minions are hot on her trail.
Hanna is a terrifying little girl: she has no qualms about killing a man or gutting an elk with her bare hands. She shows no remorse. She’s an innocuous thing on the outside, a slight slip of a girl, but she adeptly makes use of the animal inside of herself. But she’s also fascinated with life and its wonders. She’s wholly foreign to the outside world—phones, televisions, trains, electricity, all of it unknown to her. Her awkwardness and naiveté provides an intriguing contrast to her inclination to be an assassin. Few action movies can boast such a nuanced main character—in fact, Hanna is the only fully realized character in the film—and Oscar-nominated Ronan, despite her youth, has the skills to bring this complicated person to beautiful fruition.
As Hanna travels from Morocco to Germany, Viegler’s dogged henchman Isaacs (Hollander) trails close on her heels. Keeping a low profile, Hanna takes up with a British hippie family, stowing away in their rickety RV across Europe. The family is remarkably well-drawn and humorous—these minor characters are a happy surprise as well as an ironic juxtaposition in the midst of an action thriller. Hanna has the chance to be a real, carefree girl, despite her being isolated for so long.
Her adventures with the hippies and their rambunctious daughter Sophie are engaging and funny, while Viegler and Heller’s shootouts are merely plot devices to keep Hanna on the run. Blanchett, usually so enthralling, doesn’t do much with her character, whose attempt to cover up her failed mission is one-dimensional. All she wants is to close the case on Heller and his daughter Hanna, by any means necessary. And that is the limit of her personality and back story, which is really a disservice to an actress who could deliver so much more.
One standout, as always, is Hollander, who might be the world’s most underrated actor, usually hidden in large ensemble casts (In the Loop, Gosford Park). He’s an amazing character actor, and here, as a violent, German, eccentric henchman, he does not disappoint. He manages to take a simple role and make it memorable with his refined use of exaggeration.
The film succeeds in many ways, with its unusual story and main character, but it nags the audience throughout about just why Viegler must kill Hanna. Viegler’s motivations pale in comparison to the thought and artistry put into other parts of the story. Screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr took pains to breathe Hanna into convincing life but never came up with a compelling foundation for the story.
While there are some holes in Hanna, director Wright doesn’t let them interrupt the overall enjoyable experience of the film. Known for period movies such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, where he dotes on scenic landscapes, Wright takes this opportunity to prove himself a thoroughly modern director (helped along by a fantastic score by the electronic duo The Chemical Brothers). There is candor in his direction, and his psychological exploration of Hanna, who is torn between her mission and her desire to be a young girl. The film is nonstop and unexpectedly winning, with intense action sequences and unanticipated humor propelling it forward. The final wink to the audience in the very last scene makes the movie.