Hanna review

Hanna takes a familiar chase movie plot and twists it into some interesting new shapes.  Hanna (Ronan) is 16. Raised in isolation by her father Erik (Bana) somewhere near the article circle in Finland. Erik is a former CIA agent who has gone “off the grid”, living self sufficiently in the frozen forest. He has trained his daughter in armed and hand-to-hand combat. Hannah is super-intelligent, resourceful, and almost completely innocent but she craves experience. Knowing he cannot keep her away from the world for much longer, her father presents her with a tracking device. If she flips the switch, the dark forces that he has run from will know where they are and their lives will forever change. When she chooses to activate the device, Erik heads south in a business suit and leaving Hanna to wait for arrival of CIA forces.

Thus begins what is essentially a fight and flight movie, familiar from the Bourne series. The antagonist is Marissa (Blanchett), a high level CIA agent who shares a bloody history with Hanna’s father. Marissa is determined to find and eliminate Erik to protect the secrets buried in both their pasts and she is happy to use Hanna to do so. So far so ho-hum, but director Wright (taking a major leap into new territory after Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist), aided by a tight script and a thumping percussive soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, takes this material and turns it into a hallucinogenic fairy tale. From the opening imagery of Hanna and Eric’s snowbound cottage (practically made of gingerbread) the film clearly codes itself as a fairy tale narrative. Hanna is the classic innocent abroad, Bana the stoic Woodcutter, Blanchett the wicked stepmother.

Wright fashions some stunning action set pieces, one in which has Bana tracked through a crowd by Blanchett’s agents before ending in a stunning single take subway fight sequence marries Bresson and DePalma. However the action never overwhelms the strong character work being done by a superb cast. In addition to the three leads, Tom Hollander registers impressively as a sexually ambiguous killer dwarf in a shellsuit and eyeliner. Olivia Williams and Jason Fleming are fun as a middle class couple whom Hanna falls in with for a while, and Jessica Bardem (one of the foul mouthed kids from Tamara Drewe) is very funny as their plumy, spoilt daughter.

After the conclusion there is a nagging suspicion that this might not actually make much sense, and there are a few frustrating hanging secondary plot threads. This is quibbling however. Hanna is a simply stunning film that excites the senses and engages the heart. For once, the prospect of a sequel is one that entices rather than repels.

Hanna at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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