Directed by Joe Wright
Produced by Marty Adelstein
Screenplay by David Farr
HANNA is a movie that I fear I may be doing a disservice to as I wasn’t in the mood for the type of movie it is. It’s an espionage/revenge film with some nifty fight scenes (Eric Bana has the best ones) a straightforward plot and some good performances with enough characters bits and quirks that had me chuckling a couple of times. Which usually is enough to satisfy me in this genre. But there are plot holes large enough to throw bowling balls through. And it’s an action movie told and filmed as though it were an art house movie. But then again, what can you expect from the director of 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”? I’ve not got a thing at all against a director attempting to tell an old story in a new way but this way wasn’t my huckleberry. But again, I say that could be because I was more in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned shoot-em-up-punchy-punchy-run-run and HANNA isn’t that.
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a sixteen-year old girl who has spent her entire life raised in isolation. Her whole world has been a cabin in Finland and the icy wasteland surrounding it. Her father, rogue CIA agent Eric Heller (Eric Bana) has unrelentingly trained her to be a killer, pure and simple. Hanna has extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills, can live off the land and speak half a dozen languages fluently. Her drawback is that Eric has taught her nothing of the outside world. But she knows it’s out there and she wants to go and see what it’s like for herself.
Eric pulls out a transmitter he’s kept hidden all these years and tells Hanna if she’s truly ready to go, flip the switch to turn it on. He warns her that if she does, their enemies will come for them. Hanna turns it on. The transmitter sends out a signal that alerts CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) that Eric is still alive. She deploys a team to dispatch him but most of them end up getting dispatched themselves. The survivors come back with Hanna, while Eric goes on the run, hiding out in Berlin. Surprisingly enough, Hanna demands to speak with Marissa who is too smart to meet with Hanna herself. She sends an agent in her place who is murdered by Hanna in an amazingly cold-blooded scene. Hanna escapes from the high tech holding facility she’s been locked in, discovering to her amazement that she’s now in Morocco. While wandering around, Hanna meets up with Sophie (Jessica Barden) who befriends her and persuades her parents (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) to give Hanna a lift to Berlin. Hanna’s dad has had her memorize a number of fake back stories which she uses to convince Sophie’s parents she’s simply a very independent young lady traveling on her own (they seem to completely overlook the fact she has no money, no passport and no luggage) and she hitches a ride with them. So while Hanna gets a crash course in the ways of the world from her new surrogate family, Eric Heller and Marissa Wiegler continue to play out a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, bound by a dark and deadly secret they are actually eager to kill each other over in order to keep it buried.
When we stick with the espionage stuff, we’ve got us a pretty good movie. Cate Blanchett appears to be having a good time being bad. The only thing off about her performance is that she loses her American southern accent right in mid-sentence in some scenes and I’m wondering if she did it on purpose, especially given what we learn about her and her relationship to Eric Heller and Hanna. And no, it’s not what you’re thinking.
I always enjoy spy/espionage movies set in Europe as they seem to be darker and less frivolous than American-set movies of the genre and HANNA takes advantage of great locations such as Germany, Morocco and Finland. I only wish the story didn’t have such obvious holes. Eric Heller has raised Hanna in a totally technological free environment for sixteen years yet she can work a computer to Google information about DNA research. Sophie’s hippie family is embarrassingly ignorant. And there are way too many fairy tales references thrown into the movie to try and give it that feel. Especially near the end when Marissa’s role as The Wicked Witch/Evil Stepmother is practically spelled out in neon.
So should you see HANNA? It’s an interesting movie; I’m not going to deny that. I can’t think of the last time I saw an art house espionage movie and HANNA is well made, I’ll give it that. It just didn’t engage me on an emotional level or make me care about its characters or what happened to them.