Hanna (2011) Review (R)

Hanna is the story of a young girl (Saoirse Ronan) who has been brought up in the wilderness (60 miles from the Arctic Circle) by her ex-special ops father (Eric Bana). He has taught her almost complete self reliance able to survive in the wilderness even without him. He also trains her in combat, regularly roughing her up (and getting roughed up) in some pretty tough lessons.

It’s a tough love sort of upbringing. He also educates her. She speaks several languages and is able to spout memorized facts like she’s reading from the encyclopedia. But, soon enough she arrives at the time where she wants to venture out into the world and get more hands on experience.

Sensing this (and that she may be ready to venture into the world), her father, digs up a transponder that’s been buried for some 15 years. He tells his daughter if she thinks that she is ready, that all she has to do is flip the switch on the transponder and everything in her life will change.

On top of that a woman named Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) will come looking for her and will not stop until Hanna or herself is dead.

Of course, she flicks the switch or else we wouldn’t have a movie. That sets up the rest of the events in the film. Her father leaves her alone in the woods to face the special ops team that shows up expecting to find her father. He has only given her an address and expects her to find him there after escaping from the team that picks her up. And it goes from there.

I passed on this during its theatrical run and I’m sorry I did that. This is a fun film. It has elements of science fiction, road films, fairy tales, comedy, spy films, and a healthy dose of action movies. It owes a little to ‘Leon (The Professional)’ in its basic premise, and reminded me several times of highly stylized films about hitmen like ‘Le Samurai’ and the recent George Clooney film ‘The American’. It even has a kind of spaghetti western flavor to it. Is it all over the place in tone? Hell, yeah, but I didn’t mind it so much. At it’s heart, the story is a ‘chase’ movie, but one that is just as interested in depicting Hanna discovering an alien world as it is the action. It’s all tied together by the very captivating actress Saoirse Ronan in the lead and the droning cool soundtrack provided largely by the Chemical Brothers.

Ronan has already had quite an interesting career appearing in not so mainstream fare like City Of Ember and The Way Back (both great films). She seems to have an understanding of whatever story she’s working on in a way beyond her years. Some young actors hit their marks and cues, but Ronan inhabits the character she’s playing. It sounds funny, but she  is believable as a multi-lingual child assassin. The director, Joe Wright (who worked with Ronan before on Atonement) did a GREAT job at helping to sell that. The kinetic action and fight scenes are done well. There was never any obvious CGI stuff (if there was any at all).

Her father is played by the equally interesting Australian actor Eric Bana appearing in such films as Blackhawk Down, the best Hulk movie, and Munich among many other things. he plays the father, Erik, with a vague European accent (and Hanna also has the accent, of course). He doesn’t show all of his cards until much later in the film. Bana also has a way of delivering lines that make him seem slightly off kilter. His part is an important one, but surprisingly small.

The film also has several other great actors that I’m a fan of. Olivia Williams turns up as a mother that Hanna meets along her journey. Williams’ family in the film is a polar opposite to that of Hanna’s upbringing. The parents are extremely liberal and only moderately concerned about  a young girl (Hanna) traveling  alone in foreign countries. The father finds it mildly concerning and wonders where the father is. The two children (the daughter being Hanna’s age) are spoiled. The whole family is the kind that apparently never had any kind of adversity. I liked them, but at the same time I wanted to vomit. I think their place in the film wasn’t only to show the contrast of how Hanna is raised, but maybe even making some social commentary on the lack of wonder  by those in the modern world.

Cate Blanchett essentially plays the Big Bad Wolf. I’m not kidding. I don’t get the weird Southern accent she does, but she does a good job of playing quietly crazy. She’s never cartoonish, though, even when director Wright plays up the contemporary fairy tale angle. The Big Bad Wolf motif runs throughout, with the camera lingering on Marissa Wiegler teeth or having her stalk around the house that Hanna hides in (and peeping in like something that would be in a scary children’s book).

The story even has Hanna meeting her father at a house in a dilapidated amusement park named after the Brothers Grimm. There are a few very cool visuals that bolster that element of the story (like the one above).

Hanna is an effective action film that lets the audience get to know the personalities involved like an indie film. It moves at a pretty good clip and the story is stripped down to a bare minimum of what’s necessary. There are a lot of things that remain vague or unanswered. It never allows itself to get bogged down with explanations, but most film goers are fully aware of the trappings of this sort of film, so it’s unnecessary. It does throw out a quick explanation of how Hanna is able to overpower grown men, a plot thread that filmgoers will also be familiar with, but the film is well made. It has visuals of the ‘big screen’ variety. It has a great soundtrack, but I’ve always loved the Chemical Brothers, anyway. Wright pares down the back story to a bare minimum concentrating on Hanna’s discoveries of the world and to the chase. It has nice, neat bookends to the story, also. It’s a film that moves (especially on first viewing) and one that I enjoyed. It’s one of the better movies I’ve seen this year.

4.5 of 5

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