Living a life unlike any other teenager, Hanna's (Saoirse Ronan) upbringing and training in remote Finland have been one and the same, all geared to make her the perfect assassin by her ex-CIA father Erik (Eric Bana). When she is sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna makes her way stealthily across Europe, eluding agents sent after her by Marissa (Cate Blanchett), a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own. As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.
Review by Louise Keller:
Saoirse Ronan shows her Academy Award nomination for Atonement was no fluke in this enthralling chase thriller that begins in the snowy wilderness of North Finland and concludes in a Berlin amusement park near the house of Wilhelm Grimm, whose dark fairy tales cast an ominous shadow on the storyline. Ronan devours the role as Hanna, the 16 year old assassin, raised on Grimm's tales and whose home schooling by her ex CIA father Erik (Eric Bana) has prepared her for survival. 'Think on your feet; even when sleeping,' he tells her. Superbly directed by Joe Wright and the first screenplay for writers Seth Lochhead, David Farr, this is a top notch thriller, laced with suspense, action and a wonderful sense of mystery.
In an unforgettable opening sequence engulfed in dense snow and heavily laden fir trees, we meet Hanna, armed with a bow and arrow, gun and knife which she puts to good use as she targets a magnificent stag. We learn a lot about the young girl in this scene - persistence, courage, nerve and a willingness to do whatever it takes. Clearly, this is no normal upbringing for a young girl and Erik has taught her well - not only does she possess extraordinary physical skills by way of defending herself but she can speak languages and knows about life, even if it is by rote and not experience.
As the mission for which Hanna has been trained all her life begins, the film literally takes off in the guise of a road movie, continuing for its duration with a compelling sense of motion and anticipation. I was on the edge of my seat during the scene in which Cate Blanchett's icy-cold CIA operative Melissa watches from another room as Hanna is interrogated in the underground facility in the Moroccan desert. Melissa is a chilling character, immaculately dressed with red, perfectly coiffed collar-length hair and uniform square manicured nails. Her changing accent distracts occasionally but Blanchett nails Melissa with Swiss army knife precision and we feel no sympathy for her as she instructs her mignons and the scene stealing Tom Hollander as the seedy Isaacs, who 'can do things the agency doesn't allow her to do'.
There are some unexpected and lovely touches - like Hanna's wonderment as she witnesses for herself all the things she has read about - like electricity, television, telephone - as well as making a friend of Sophie (Jessica Barden), the rebellious teen travelling by campervan with her holidaying, crazy English family. Olivia Williams is terrific as Sophie's no-make-up mum.
As we discover Hanna's secret and the various levels of stakes in play, the film takes on a richness of purpose. The climactic scene set among the characters from Grimm's fairy tales is eerily appropriate, once again reinforcing all the things we learned about Hanna from the very beginning. A knockout.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The high octane cast and the edgy premise of a teenage girl as a trained assassin are intriguing and cinematically tempting. The opening sequences in snow-covered woods in the north of Finland create a brisk sense of impending action, as Hanna (Ronan) makes her final preparations as the ultimate operative with finely honed survival skills.
She stalks and then shoots a deer with bow and arrow and guts it - a scene which has an echo near the film's end, although its symbolism is rather weak.
Bana is impressive as her father Erik, a German ex-CIA agent who nurses some secrets which are at the heart of the matter. His German accent and speech mannerism is terrific, as is Ronan's more muted accent; these elements help provide the film with a European aura.
Erik has been preparing to let Hanna go out into the world - and they consciously activate a signal that alerts their arch enemy, the CIA's Marissa (Blanchett); later in the film we might presume that this was to lure Marissa into a deadly trap, unlikely as this seems within the overview and timeframe of the characters' backstory.
Blanchett, with a wandering Texan accent, gives her Marissa as much complexity as the script allows - which isn't much. The undefined nature of her past relationship with Erik and the circumstances of their fatal conflict overshadow and restrict her characterisation.
When Hanna runs into a new age English campervan holidaying family in the Moroccan desert, she has her first ever taste of other people: Rachel (Olivia Williams) and Sebastian (Jason Flemyng), with their teenage daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) and younger son Miles (Aldo Maland).
The family becomes her ticket to ride closer to civilization, and she makes friends with the precocious Sophie. It allows us to see the world through Hanna's eyes. The scenes with these characters are the film's best - and provide the humour.
Marissa brings in the multitasking Isaacs (Tom Hollander) to track down the resourceful Hanna, because he can "do things my agency won't let me do" - whatever that means; it's unclear because she doesn't want him to kill Hanna. Hollander is effective as the sadistic gay heavy with a camp wardrobe, who we meet directing rehearsals for a nightclub act who has both male and female genitalia, he tells Marissa.
Indeed, such oddities litter the film. The scene of Hanna's first kiss with a Spanish boy she and Sophie pick up ends in a stunt that's meant to amuse, but looks simply foolish. Several other elements that don't add up include the armoured vehicles chasing Hanna in the desert, oblivious to the open manhole in which she is hiding on the road in front of them - and Hanna's first baffling encounter with electricity, later followed by her internet searching prowess.
The coherence of the film's internal workings and logic are constantly eroded.
Jow Wright's directorial misjudgements add to the flaws with his tendency to gloss over detail, or to simply override logic; the thriller is an unforgiving genre when it comes to detail.
Wright draws a fairytale parallel with the elements and delights in setting the action in exotic locales, from Finland and Morocco to a Spanish port and finally Berlin, but sometimes we have to imagine how Hanna got there. As for the chase sequences, there is lots of running but little context for us to understand the physicality of the danger.
The filmmakers struggle to satisfactorily connect the core driver of the story, a half hearted attempt at a sci fi element, into the plot, which leaves the film unable to articulate what it is that it wants to say.
First published in the Sun-Herald
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CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Paris Arrowsmith, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng,
PRODUCER: Marty Adelstein, Leslie Holleran, Scott Nemes
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
SCRIPT: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alwin H. Kuchler
EDITOR: Paul Tothill
MUSIC: The Chemical Brothers
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Greenwood
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 28, 2011