Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana
Plot: A teenage girl, raised in isolation by her father, is trained and sent by him on a mission. But it’s not long before they are both being chased by the CIA who are determined to prevent a secret that explains her existence from being revealed.
Trained female assassins appear to be a popular subject for screenwriters these days. Ever since the release of La Femme Nikita in 1990, there have been a swathe of similar films featuring scorned women who know a thing or two about gaining the ultimate revenge. From the conventional Charlie Baltimore (Geena Davis) in The Long Kiss Goodnight to Uma Thurman’s tongue-firmly-in-cheek The Bride in Kill Bill 1 & 2, this is a more alluring and mysterious type of character than its male counterpart, that tends to do rather well at the box-office.
The title character of Hanna (Ronan) is a 16-year-old who has been living with her father Erik (Bana) for most of her life in northern Finland, who has trained her in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. He has also been educating her through the exclusive use of books, without any modern technology whatsoever. One night, Hanna tells Erik that she is ‘ready’ and is given a box with a switch, which she duly activates – this notifies a CIA officer named Marissa Weigler (Blanchett) of Erik’s whereabouts. A team is sent to capture Erik but he has already left, telling Hanna to meet him at a house in Berlin.
Weigler is intrigued by Hanna’s presence and she is brought back to the underground CIA facility in Morocco to be interrogated. A body double of Weigler is sent in to speak to Hanna in an effort to firstly determine her motives, but before the interview can yield any useful information Hanna kills her and the guards, managing to escape into the desert with CIA operatives on her tail. Meanwhile, Erik makes his way to Berlin whilst trying to evade capture himself. As the two try to meet again, Hanna learns the real truth behind Weigler’s determination to have her silenced.
The style of Hanna is very much continental European. Despite having a British director, an Irish star and Australian supporting cast, you could easily envisage this being exclusively a German affair such is the unique way in which the story is brought to life. Not only is most of the action centred around Spain and Germany, but Joe Wright’s direction suggests something altogether 1980s and the music, which comes courtesy of The Chemical Brothers, finely compliments this approach.
The portrayal of Hanna’s story in this respect is simultaneously positive and negative. On the plus side, it gives the film a great edge that we wouldn’t normally feel with a conventional action thriller – we are more used to incredibly shaky cameras but here we experience a fair few long, tracking shots, periods of little or no dialogue and the occasional absence of incidental music. However, the accessibility of the characters is thus made difficult – with such recognisable stars trying to fit into an unusual formula, it doesn’t quite work.
On the subject of believability, the fact that Hanna (who possesses a rather small frame) is able to overpower men twice her size stretches plausibility a little too far. Also the ‘mission’ she is sent on is unclear – why does the transponder have to be switched on in order for the CIA to know where they are? We can only assume it is so Hanna is able to infiltrate Weigler’s hideaway and kill her, but that doesn’t guarantee that the two of them will meet face-to-face. Plot holes aside, Ronan plays Hanna with the right balance of ferocity and vulnerability, but Bana is placed at a disadvantage due to the requirement to put on a decidedly ‘Allo ‘Allo-inspired accent.
Hanna isn’t as fun or blood-thirsty as Kill Bill, but it has a good try at emulating the body count, finding increasingly innovative ways for characters to meet their end. Nevertheless, very healthy receipts for the film suggests that cinema-goers still enjoy a decent action yarn, such as this.