(Joe Wright, 2011, USA)
Collaborating once again with her Atonement director Joe Wright, Saoirse Ronan stars as Hanna, a sheltered but extremely capable sixteen year old trained by her father (Eric Bana) from an early age in everything from basic survival skills to bi-linguistics and, more importantly, lethal combat, all the requirements of a successful assassin who must adhere to the repeated guideline ‘adapt, or die’. When their secret hideout in the wilderness of Finland becomes exposed, Hanna embarks on a stealth mission across Europe where she must evade the capture of a team of ruthless operatives under the rule of corrupt CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), who will stop at nothing to eliminate the two assassins by any means necessary.
Joe Wright’s previous cinematic offerings have all demonstrated the director’s ability at mixing big stars with sumptuous visuals, whether it’s the rather average period drama Pride & Prejudice, the aforementioned Atonement; an immersive if slightly flat adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel, or 2009’s painfully dull The Soloist, which, oddly, aimed to shed light on mental illness by actually dodging the issue as much as possible, an approach that can similarly be said of Hanna, a different type of film altogether. Though he directs the numerous, if few and far between, action sequences with considerable brio, Wright forgets to actually focus on the film’s characters and storyline, which potentially could be of some interest if it wasn’t so baffling and underdeveloped. Who is Hanna? Why is she an assassin hidden away from society for so long? And why specifically is Wiegler so passionate about killing her off? By the time the credits roll, we don’t really know, and clearly neither does Wright.
Swapping substance for style only disillusions the audience to a certain extent before the cracks begin to show, and just as Hanna starts at breakneck speed and throws you in at a curious deep end, questions start becoming unanswered and characters are given dialogue which holds no dramatic clout, making the action insubstantial and emotionally arid. Though the performances are actually rather good, with Ronan as watchable as ever and Blanchett stepping into her well-heeled villainess with devilish ease, they are let down by slim characterisation and a bizarre turn from Tom Hollander who takes overstatement to a whole new level. Plus points come in the form of a thumping and incredibly befitting score by The Chemical Brothers who, like Daft Punk’s accompaniment to Tron: Legacy and Jonny Greenwood’s electrifying score for There Will Be Blood, add to the increasingly high-profile new wave of electronic composition, heralding a new spin on contemporary film orchestration.
As I’ve said, Hanna boasts some blistering action, a few laughs and some sublime cinematography, but it’s frenetically directed to within an inch of its life and the unmemorable narrative grinds to a halt too often, despite its consistently frenzied pace. Watchable but weightless.
- Atonement, 2007. [Film] Directed by Joe Wright. UK: Universal Pictures.
- Hanna, 2011. [Film] Directed by Joe Wright. USA: Holleran Company.
- Pride & Prejudice, 2005. [Film] Directed by Joe Wright. UK: Universal Pictures.
- The Soloist, 2009. [Film] Directed by Joe Wright. USA: DreamWorks SKG.
- There Will Be Blood, 2007. [Film] Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. USA: Miramax Films.
- Tron: Legacy, 2010. [Film] Directed by Joseph Kosinski. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.