Directed by Joe Wright.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng and Cate Blanchett.
A teenage assassin s dispatched on a mission across Europe where she is tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.
Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) shifts gear with this audacious espionage thriller Hanna. Fearless, exacting and beautiful, sixteen-year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives in the wilderness of northern Finland with her father Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent who is training her to be an assassin. She has a single target, shady intelligence operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). Set on her path to avenge her mother, Hanna's mission is plagued by the seriously nasty villains who pursue her and the unexpectedness of the terrain she encounters (from the Moroccan desert to the metropolis of Berlin) but also by the limits of her training. Her father’s training neglected to equip Hanna with the skills to navigate human behaviour and emotion.
To start I’ll say this was a much more intimate than is advertised. The premise in the trailers of a young girl that has been moulded into a weapon, you expect an almost ‘Bourne’ sized epic; but ultimately what you get is a very interesting point of view from a character that is experiencing the world for the first time.
Ronan plays Hanna with a great innocence and wonderment with a concurrent animalistic, primal edge. If you had doubt that she wasn’t going to have a big future this movie quashes that. She has great physical presence in the film and is able to hold her own along side big screen presences like Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana. Bana is always great, he inhabits characters so effortlessly and in this film despite being Hanna’s father and trainer/tutor he is not invulnerable and Bana’s skill as an actor shines in those moments of vulnerability.
The lead antagonist Weigler (Blanchett) is really fantastic. She so effortlessly extracts every possible drop of emotion out of every line that she speaks. There are times in Hanna where she will be delivering a line and just when you think that all the depth has been rung out into the dialogue, Blanchett merely has to purse her lip and that one punctuative gesture enriches the scene exponentially.
The family: Rachel (Olivia Williams), Sebastian (Jason Flemyng), Sophie (Jessica Barden), Miles (Aldo Maland), are a quirky addition to the film and despite the fact that they are used to contrast Hanna’s upbringing with a somewhat more ‘normal’ upbringing - they bring a good mix of humour and empathy for Hanna that grounds and brings warmth to the story. The brief interlude with Sophie and Hanna going off with two Spanish lads to see a mariachi felt like clouds parting on a grey day and being bathed in sunlight. Wright’s direction in these scenes was painterly and beautiful.
The one character that really felt like a caricature compared to the other lead character was the Isaacs (Tom Hollander), Weigler’s blunt instrument. It felt really generic to have an Arian, sadistic, sexual deviate as the villain who would do what is necessary to get his hands on Hanna. In any Euro spy film of the last 30 years, a staple villain has been the former death camp torturer who just happens to evade capture during the war that is later recruited by shady intelligence agencies to do their torturing/bidding for a price.
As for the story it was vastly more intimate than expected and in some respects its small scale kept it as a self contained entity, it was never intended a larger story but I couldn’t help but wish there was much more of Erik (Bana) and Weigler’s (Blanchett) past shown for us, because the brief glimpses that we get are intriguing, compelling and as a fan of both of these great Australian actors, I wanted to see more them strutting their stuff in this film.
If you have seen Joe Wright’s other films, you would be familiar with his great eye for large scope (coastline carnival shot in Atonement) but also for detailed texture (intimate softly lit office love scenes in Atonement), he applies that same rule of contrasts to this film. On the one hand were in the broad frozen wilderness and in the next movement we’re in a fire lit hovel; and the next moment we’re cramped in a maze of concrete tunnels as Hanna tries to escape a military facility when suddenly she bursts out into the vast Moroccan desert. I did appreciate Wright staying away from your typical spy film locales and taking us to some of the surreal landscapes that he did. These surreal landscapes, aligned the audience and Hanna’s perspective of the world; everything is new everything is strange. My absolute favourite sequence in the film portrays the moment that Hanna’s mother was killed and has our trio of main characters (or be it a baby version of Hanna), the choreography of that scene continues to swirl through my head.
Hanna is a solid film; I wont be singing its praises from the rooftops but I think mainly that is because it gave me a great taste of great characters played by great actors and my expectation was crying out for a larger scope which the film was not intended to deliver.
Blake Howard is a writer/site director/podcaster at the castleco-op.com.
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