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REVIEW: HANNA


Hanna (2011)

Reviewer: Pierre Badiola
Rated: 12 (UK)
Release Date: Out Now
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana

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In 2005 Joe Wright broke onto the feature film landscape with his widely acclaimed adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was a vibrant treatment of corseted, 19th century romance that helped etch Wright as a director with a keen visual sense; a profile he further lived up to in 2007’s Atonement. However after a middling, sappy treatment of rags-to-riches redemption in 2009’s The Soloist, Wright is back with a romping, popcorn-thriller centered around a 16 year-old girl on a mission. That mission is the assassination of one C.I.A. southern belle Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), and that steely-eyed girl is of course Hanna, here played to the hilt by Saoirse Ronan in what is sure to be a star-launching role.

The story starts off innocently enough in the snowy, desolate wilderness of Finland where we see the titular character slay a deer with all the natural ease of a professional game-hunter. It is revealed that Hanna has lived in this setting her entire life, sheltered by her protective father Erik (Eric Bana), who has taught her survival skills ranging from endurance to martial arts and has also provided her the entirety of her education. The when and why is kept from us, and the lack of information lends the first 5-10 minutes a sense of near post-apocalyptic foreboding.

That is until one day Hanna proclaims to her father that she is “ready”, and together with objective in hand, that terse phrase kicks off a journey that ultimately amounts to a kind of Bourne Identity-style cat and mouse chase — full of similarly pitched run-and-gun thrills and thread-pulling plot revelations, yet overall markedly tamer, looser, and as a result a lot less enthralling.

After being captured willingly by C.I.A. operatives early on, Hanna is flown to a holding facility in the middle of a North-African desert. It is here that Ms. Wiegler is informed of her presence and is also where a lot of the most satisfying action takes place. Whilst in a genre that marks new territory for the director, early combat scenes are deftly handled by Wright, who is able to capture the adrenaline of Hanna’s disciplined fighting styles and near-escapes through camera spins, dramatic lighting and pulse-pounding aural accompaniments from the Chemical Brothers. Yet that steam and overall danger is mostly left behind once Hanna escapes to the deserts of Morocco, where she happens across a quirky British family on vacation who proceed to take Hanna under their wing.

Here a second plot thread develops involving Hanna’s discovery of friendship, humanity and most of all normality, yet the length and breadth of tone in which these elements play out work to dull the claustrophobic, life-or-death confrontations that bookend the film rather than sharpen them.

This is not helped by the comically drawn band of pursuers Marissa enlists for help; a trio of German brutes headed by a hammy Tom Hollander. They reminded me of the nihilists from the Big Lebowski in their cartoonish portrayal of European henchman and unfortunately were as similarly non-threatening in screen presence.

The endgame is a bit of a letdown too, with it’s constituent parts never heading towards anything that truly gels (the entire family’s fate is left unresolved even at the end of this near two-hour trip!). Hanna’s backstory is littered with hints at covert government operations and genetically modified super-soldiers, yet these are all tips of icebergs Wright is unwilling to unearth. With his focus primarily on Hanna’s coming-of-age journey, much of your enjoyment of this film will rely on your penchant for colourful characters and teen adventure, but mostly your ability to overlook Wright’s lacklustre framework.

Movie Rating: 2/5

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