Saoirse Ronan stars as the title character in Joe Wright's adventure thriller “Hanna,” a Focus Features release.
Photo courtesy of FOCUS FEATURES
Eric Bana stars as Erik and Saoirse Ronan as Hanna in the film “Hanna,” a Focus Features release.
Photo courtesy of FOCUS FEATURES
Eric Bana stars as Erik in the film “Hanna,” a Focus Features release.
Photo by ALEX BAILEY
Sophie (Jessica Barden), left, meets Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) in the film “Hanna,” a Focus Features release.
Ronan, Blanchett and Bana star in edgy, stylish "Hanna". Part fairy tale, part action thriller and part coming-of-age story, “Hanna” compensates for the far-fetched scenario at its core with dazzling cinematography, stylish editing and extraordinary performances from its central players.
This is one of those increasingly rare instances when a film strives to be something different. These days, far too many films follow the tried-and-true route, delivering formulaic mash-ups with familiar characters, recurring situations and predictable plot twists.
In “Hanna,” director Joe Wright takes a standard pursuit thriller and intertwines it with elements of dark fantasy.
The film repeatedly alludes to the Brothers Grimm, with good reason: Hanna, the teenage girl at the center of the story, is thrust out into the ruthless world for the first time. Living her entire life in the dark forest, her father Erik, a former CIA operative, has taught her everything she needs to survive. Prepared to leave the nest, Hanna must first face the wicked stepmother – in this case, a heartless American intelligence agent named Marissa Wiegler.
Hanna is played by Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan. Ronan takes a two-dimensional character and implants a full range of emotions. Hanna may be a trained killer, but she also happens to be a 16-year-old, full of curiosity about a world she has never experienced and confusion about the mission she has been given by her father.
Ronan gradually brings out Hanna’s innocence, her inquisitiveness and her clumsiness in social situations. In the more visceral action sequences, Ronan is frighteningly emotionless, just as one might expect from a skilled assassin. Still, the young actress makes this unpleasant character appealing, particularly in comparison to the film’s antagonist.
Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett portrays Marissa Wiegler. Blanchett delivers a fascinating performance as a cold-blooded, callous, self-centered intelligence agent. She saturates the character with obsessive ticks that make her all the more terrifying. Imagine the evil queen from the Brothers Grimm telling of “Snow White” – then give her a gun, access to high-tech gizmos and a clandestine alliance with some sadistic German henchmen.
Hanna’s father Erik is played by Eric Bana. Bana gives a solid performance, underscoring the character’s over-the-top tough love technique of raising a child without making the father-daughter relationship seem unaffectionate. Again, in any other context, the character would appear despotic and cruel – but Bana manages to convey Erik’s fondness for Hanna, and draws parallels between the role and any parent’s instinctive protectiveness over their child.
The coming-of-age component plays out during sequences filmed against the backdrop of Morocco and Europe when Hanna, on the run, hitches a ride with a vacationing British family. Hanna bonds with the family’s daughter, played by Jessica Barden, and the two share some “normal” episodes – at least, they are normal when contrasted with the high-stakes espionage nightmare that’s unfolding elsewhere.
Anchored by a mesmerizing score courtesy of The Chemical Brothers, Wright pulls all these threads together and presents them in a stylish, elegant and wonderfully refreshing cinematic exercise that seldom falters. Yes, there are moments when storyline becomes shallow and implausible. Yes, there are times when the film’s frenzied pace becomes a bit unsteady.
While tension is sometimes lacking, the film quickly rights itself, recapturing the exhilarating pace and returning to the effervescent imagery that makes it so unique. “Hanna” may not be perfect, but it is captivating, fun and full of adrenalin.