Monday, 6 June 2011

Film Review #28

Hanna (2011)
Director: Joe Wright  Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Jessica Barden, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng

Certificate: 12A  Running Time: 111 Minutes

Tagline: "Adapt or Die"

There's been a lot of revenge films released over the years. When done well they're a pretty damn entertaining, not to mention satisfying kind of film to watch, so it was with interest that I approached this one. It doesn't take a genius to determine that the story focuses on Hanna, but who is she? Well, Hanna, as the trailer will tell you, is a very special girl. The film opens on a snowy wilderness. Before long we see a figure stealthily hunting a deer with a bow and arrow, taking it down with a single shot. This figure, we soon learn, is Hanna (Ronan), a 16 year-old girl living in a secluded cabin in a remote part of Finland with her father, Erik (Bana). Here he has been training her as an assassin and teaching her about the world in which she has yet to step foot, and he's done a good job - she's clearly highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat and adept at handling various weapons. When she announces to him that she's 'ready', he reluctantly gives her a transmitter that will reveal their location. But what is it that she's 'ready' for?

Has something Hanna's read troubled her?
Having greatly enjoyed this film knowing very little about it beforehand, I'll try not to reveal too much here but it may not come as a great surprise to find that the CIA are involved. Hanna's father is an ex-agent and the target of their attention is Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett), Erik's former boss. After allowing herself to get caught, Hanna is taken to a CIA installation in Morocco where Marissa is waiting with interest. Obviously this presumed confrontation is not the climax of the film - it would be rather short if that were the case! For a majority of its duration, Hanna is an action/chase film which takes place across North Africa and a variety of European locations, and the gripping exterior scenes are superbly shot by director, Joe Wright.

Marissa meets with Isaacs...
Wright, for many, is actually a rather odd choice of director too. Until now he's been more famous for directing English period-dramas like Pride and Prejudice, but it's hard to fault the job he does here. He has a great group of actors to work with too. Although the role hardly stretches him, Bana is fine as the revenge-seeking pop, while Hollander, as hired goon, Isaacs, seems a little out of place along with his neo-Nazi cronies, but does have an oddly chilling air about him. There's also some amusing scenes involving a bickering English family who Hanna chances upon travelling across Europe, but the real stand-outs here are Blanchett and Ronan. The former is on unfamiliar (to me, at least) ground as the main antagonist as the cold and sinister Wiegler. She's a real piece of work but the former Galadriel certainly seems to enjoy the part, sneering past her Texan drawl as she tries to tie up her loose ends.

A purposeful Hanna prepares her next move...
Hanna is also a very interesting character in a different way. Having been raised in the wilderness and brought up on cold facts read from various reference books, she does at times seem as full of innocence and wonder about the world as you might expect, but she also has an ever-present sense of menacing unpredictability. Ronan, who impressed previously in Atonement (also by Joe Wright) and The Lovely Bones, is a revelation here. Her whispy blonde hair and almost frail-looking frame bely the energy and strength she shows in pretty much all of her scenes. She underwent rigorous training for the role and it shows - she genuinely impresses in her action scenes. She's like a much more serious version of Hit Girl, displaying almost robot-like efficiency in dealing with the bad guys but she's also very much a human character who, largely thanks to her blossoming friendship with Sophie (Barden), starts to wonder what her unique upbringing has caused her to miss out on.

Erik needs eyes in the back of his head...
Special mention must also go to the energetic techno soundtrack, composed specially for the film by the Chemical Brothers. It genuinely adds a lot to the atmosphere of the film, particularly the pulse-pounding chase scenes, and helps to elevate an already good film further still. The premise may sounds rather far-fetched, stupid even, and in the wrong hands it could've been a mess, but thanks to superb direction from Wright and a phenomenal central performance from young Ronan, it remains a riveting watch throughout its running time. I just hope Wright can stay away from the English countryside for long enough to make another cracker like this. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Saoirse Ronan too! One of the best films I've seen this year and a great surprise.

RKS Score: 9/10


  1. Sounds like my cup of tea, as I love this kind of movie and I also love Blanchett :)

  2. As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed it :) Ms Blanchett is good but the young lead is who impressed me the most... I'm off to the cinema again tonight, I want to watch this again! :P