So far in this feature, we’ve looked at films helmed by directors who know a thing or two about directing in the action genre. However, we have seen something of a recent trend where big-budget blockbuster/action films are being helmed by directors who are better known for making smaller more artistic films, rather than larger action fare. Think of the MCU and its hiring of indie directors or Sam Mendes being given the director’s chair on the last two James Bond films.
Enter, Joe Wright, a film-maker won much praise for his 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice and the Oscar-nominated Atonement, before losing much of that praise by inflicting Pan upon the world. However, many years before that flop, Wright gave us Hanna a visually stylish thriller that is, in my view, one of the most underrated action films ever made and one that whose inclusion in this feature I expect and hope to raise a few eyebrows.
Young Hanna has lived a life of constant training by her former CIA agent father Erik, who is attempting to turn her into a skilled assassin, while also trying to avoid the attention of his former superiors who have been hunting the pair for years.
Joe Wright might not be a director is known for action output but he is one known for having a very creative eye for visuals, with Hanna boasting more than a few moments of stunning cinematography.
The obvious example of this skill is a stunning 4-minute long single take that follows Eric Bana’s Erik through a bus terminal and to a subway station where he then proceeds to fight off several assassins in an expertly choreographed fight sequence, all while the camera glides majestically around them. It’s a masterfully executed “how did they pull that one off?” moment that is definitely a highlight of the film. However, it’s merely one in a film full of them.
Adding to the excellent visuals is pulsing musical score composed by The Chemical Brothers that adds an extra punch to action scenes with intense electronic beats or air of wonder and mystery to the films lighter fairy tale infused moments.
Though this is an action film and we do get a few moments of fighting and shooting, like Leon, Hanna is a film in which the action is very much secondary to its the characters.
Saoirse Ronan further demonstrates that she is one of the finest actresses of her generation with her outstanding performance in the title role the character with childlike innocence and vulnerability, while also managing to display some fairly competent action skills when it comes to dishing out brutal beating against villainous skin-head henchmen.
Her performance also allows Ronan to further demonstrates her mastery of accents with her German accent being so convincing that, if you had never watched her before, you’d honestly be surprised to learn she’s Irish.
Eric Bana also gives a fine turn as Erik, Hanna’s father, with Bana excelling at navigating the difficult balancing act between Erik’s caring fatherly side that simply wants to protect his daughter and that of the strict former spy who ruthlessly wants to prepare her for war.
On the villainous side, we have a wonderfully evil Cate Blanchett as CIA agent Marissa Wegner, a ruthless killer who acts as a hybrid between government killer and evil fairy tale step-mother (something that given the subtle fairy tale vibe of the film feels intentional). Part of what makes Blanchett performance so wonderful ss the simple fact that she clearly loving every minute of being the villain, boasting a scenery-chewing grin for the ages and a wicked air about her that makes you love to hate her.
For me though, the real show stealer of the film is Issacs, a psychotic assassin who enjoys his work too much, brought to chilling life by a genuinely unsettling performance from Tom Hollander. Just the sight of him in a bloodstained tracksuit, tossing a pipe while causally whistling a catchy tune is enough to make the blood run cold.
Led by a stellar performance from Saoirse Ronan, great supporting turns from Bana and Blanchett and a chilling Hollander, a stunning visual approach and a pulsing electronic soundtrack, Hanna is probably one of the finest and most underrated action films ever made and one that I feel deserves a lot more love and attention. While I can’t comment on the recent TV adaptation (mainly because I haven’t seen any of it) hopefully it will lead to people looking back at the original film and giving it the audience that It sorely deserves.
Click the button below to continue on to the last page…