Close on the heels of Kick-Ass and Sucker Punch – and continuing Hollywood’s sudden obsession with teenage girls who fight like killing machines – comes Hanna, a somewhat surreal action-thriller starring Saoirse Ronan as a 16-year-old motherless girl raised by her father in an isolated, snowy forest in Finland. The rugged dad Erik (Eric Bana) is a CIA operative gone rogue, and he’s trained Hanna from infancy to hunt, fight and speak various foreign languages. From the film’s very opening scene it becomes clear that she’s learnt how to adapt in order to survive.
We first see her stalking a reindeer across a frozen landscape. She fires an arrow at the beast, which falls to the ground a few moments later, after trying unsuccessfully to escape despite the wound. Standing above the injured animal Hanna dryly observes: “I just missed your heart”. Before you know it, she’s pulled out a gun and blown its brains out. As she sits down in the snow to gut the animal, Erik sneaks up from behind her to demonstrate how she might be killed if she lets her guard down. Hanna proceeds to engage in a fierce hand-to-hand battle with him to make the point that she’s always prepared. No wonder that shortly after when she insists she’s ready to go out into the world, Erik doesn’t protest. They part ways, and almost immediately they’re being pursued by a ruthless CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), who has a vested interest in keeping Hanna alive.
Director Joe Wright marries this action-movie premise with Hanna’s quest for humanity in the real world. The film’s great irony, of course, is that Hanna can fend for herself and bring grown men down to their knees, but hasn’t ever had a friend or felt love. Which is why there’s beauty and a hint of humor even in her scenes with a touring British family she encounters, and particularly with their young daughter who is of a similar age.
Where the film falters is in its effort to blend all that strange, fairytale-like symbolism with the expertly choreographed action. There is a superb single-take tracking shot in which Erik is followed into an underground parking lot by one of Marissa’s men, and where he must vanquish her henchmen who suddenly show up and attack him. Another nicely done sequence is one in which Hanna dodges Marissa’s cronies in an abandoned dockyard.
The action is relentless and thrilling; and aside from Blanchett’s over-the-top turn as the ice-maiden villainess, the performances from both Ronan and Bana are strong. It’s beautifully shot and comes with a hypnotic score. Now if only its characters weren’t all humorless.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Hanna. It’s an intriguing thriller that’s let down by indulgence.