Posted on 4/09/11 06:21 PM
An exhilarating ride in the vein of the Bourne trilogy, Hanna delivers the goods of an international action thriller, even if they are a little crowded.
The opening scenes take place in the frozen forests of Finland, where Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) live out a simple existence, thriving on whatever they can hunt and scavenge. Hanna is far from a simple girl, however. Eric has had her practically memorize the two books in their home, an encyclopedia and Grimm's Fairytales. Being an ex-CIA agent, he also rigorously trains her in martial arts daily, until she is nearly better than him. There is one big gap in her life though, and that is the outside world. She doesn't know what music sounds like, and has literally had no outside contact, until now.
So why does she need this kind of training anyway? One day Erik reveals a transmitter that will give away their position away to the CIA, specifically one Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), who is assigned to eliminate them. It is Hanna's choice if she wishes to flip the switch, or stay unknown in the wilderness. As if to prove to herself that she is now an adult, the beacon is turned on, and her life won't ever be the same.
A rising star from Atonement and The Lovely Bones, Saoirse Ronan gets to try something a little different from her innocent girl-type roles. There's not much at the start for her to chew on; indeed, Hanna is by nature a very hard and remorseless assassin. As the plot moves on though, we see the rough edges reveal a certain vulnerability to her character. No matter how much and how intense the training Erik put her through, there is nothing that could fully ready her for the myriad of experiences in a populated world.
This is where the movie branches off for a moment, focusing perhaps too long on her travels through Morocco with a tourist family. It's as if the director and screenwriters wanted to really push the culture shock element, cramming in as many diverse lifestyles as possible. It was a little too much culture for me to handle in one sitting, but a hired killer is constantly tailing Hanna and her new friends, so the whole point of the story at least kept in sight.
Other than this diversion, the journey is very visually thrilling. An escape scene from a CIA stronghold early in the film is crisply shot and edited. Every fight scene is electrifying, impressing me with the discipline Saoirse Ronan must have had to train for this role. Eric Bana's fights are equally slick, if less surprising. The only one that doesn't seem to fit is Cate Blanchett; she does her best, but her character didn't come across as fit for fighting action as the others. The whole film is scored by the electronic duo Chemical Brothers, and the pulsing beats match the fast sequences perfectly, but couldn't quite provide enough gentleness for more personal scenes.
I got what I paid for, namely a story about a girl different from most others who wants nothing more than to find the truth about herself, and is prepared to take out anyone in her way. Produced in a stylish manner and sporting some fine acting from its lead, Hanna succeeds in appealing to that tough-as-nails person in all of us.