Release Date: April 8, 2011
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Seth Lochhead and David Farr
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana
MPAA Rating: PG-13
While it’s been argued that there are no original ideas left in Hollywood, there are times when a filmmaker finds a way to combine genres and styles in a unique way that produces a film that feels like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Hanna is one of those rare films.
At its core, the film is a Bourne Identity-style revenge thriller centered around a young girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) who has spent her entire life in seclusion in the arctic with her father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana). Erik has spent Hanna’s life training her in combat, survival skills and foreign languages to prepare her for the moment when she must seek out and kill Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett). Erik once worked with Marissa and the CIA, but he felt compelled to leave the agency and live off the grid, which makes both him and his daughter a target.
But it’s more than just a spy thriller. The movie also presents itself as a modern fairy tale about a special little girl who emerges from the woods to square off against Weigler, the Big Bad Wolf. And it’s also a coming of age tale about a young girl leaving home to forge her own path and become a woman. There are also elements of “fish out of water” films and road movies as Hanna, who has spent her whole life in a small shack surrounded by nothing but snow, ventures out across Europe experiencing the civilized world for the very first time. Plus, there is a mystery about Weigler’s motivations in hunting down Hanna and Erik that unfolds throughout the film.
What’s impressive is that somehow, with all of these different genres and styles, director Joe Wright manages to keep a consistent tone throughout the film. The movie moves seamlessly from action thriller to mystery to touching coming of age tale without ever stumbling. And the result is a film that feels completely fresh and unique. But, most of all, it’s just a really fun film with a solid story told well. There isn’t a scene or moment in the film that feels wasted.
One key factor in the film’s success is the musical score by The Chemical Brothers. The music in Hanna, which has quite an eclectic and whimsical vibe to it, helps shift the feel of the movie as it goes from one style to the next. The music becomes a backbone that helps sell the emotion and action in the film. But Wright also balances the music with moments of unnerving silence that help to build tension and give the movie an ominous film – the eerie calm before the storm.
The performances are quite great as well, starting with 16-year-old Saoirse Ronan, who is asked to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the film. Hanna is a well-educated and intelligent young soldier who lives by her father’s key rule: “Adapt or die.” But she has no real world experience. (As one character tells her late in the film, her father has deprived her by giving her a life without magic or music.) Ronan is able to convey the wide range of complex emotions her character must display throughout the film as she balances being a highly-trained super soldier with being a vulnerable young girl looking to connect with other people besides her father. She is equally believable in both roles.
Eric Bana is fantastic as Erik Heller, who is struggling with the normal anxieties over his daughter leaving the nest for the very first time. This is, of course, heightened by the fact that leaving home puts her in danger of being killed, but it’s a risk Erik feels he must take so that Hanna can learn to protect herself.
Cate Blanchett is quite effective as Mariss Weigler. Blanchett is a lovely woman, but somehow as Weigler, with her garish red hair, falsely charming Southern accent and evil, grimacing smile, she is completely detestable. She instantly commands a room when she walks into it and from her first moment on-screen establishes herself as a worthy foe to Erik and Hanna.
Tom Hollander also gives a standout performance as Isaacs, the hired gun Weigler enlists to help her track down the Hellers because he is willing to do things her agency doesn’t condone. Isaacs is an interesting character, one who likes to whistle while pursuing his targets and who has a soft spot for hermaphrodite dancers.
The action sequences are all really fun and impactful as well. It seems like Wright had to use quick cuts and careful editing on occasion to help sell a few of Ronan’s ass kicking scenes, but it’s hardly noticeable and never becomes a distraction. Bana, unsurprisingly, excels in all of his action scenes.
The film overall is just a really fun and unique adventure. It combines elements from formulas and story arcs you’ve seen before, but manages to do so in a way that feels somehow different and unique. So if you are looking for something just a little bit different this weekend, give Hanna a shot.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.