If Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl from “Kick-Ass” were a slightly more real person, I suppose she’d be Hanna. Saoirse Ronan might not utter the C-word, but her character provides the same level of entertainment plus a bit more, well, depth. Either way, the trend of ass-kicking children continues in Joe Wright’s latest film, which succeeds as a great thriller just as “Kick-Ass” succeeded as a great superhero/comic movie spoof. A pure cat-and-mouse thriller with a bit more heart than usual, “Hanna” definitely goes above and more arguably beyond great action material.
Saoirse Ronan proves her acting ceiling lies well beyond a fathomable distance as the titular character, a girl raised by her father (Eric Bana) somewhere near the arctic circle and trained to be a deadly assassin. Her father is ex-CIA and reads Hanna encyclopedia bed-time stories all while training her to eventually take out a woman named Marissa Viegler (Cate Blanchett), who works for the CIA and will apparently want to kill Hanna as soon as she knows where she is. In the first 15 minutes, Hanna proves she’s old and skilled enough for her mission and it begins. After being contained and thinking she’s killed Viegler, Hanna escapes and goes on the run from Viegler and the cronies she hires to track her down in Morocco, Spain and other parts of Europe.
If any doubts existed as to whether the director of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement” could pull off stylized action, they are quickly put to rest in “Hanna.” Although Wright does continue his trademark of slowing down the pace on occasion to ogle the scenery including pans around characters, he psychs you up for the action sequences. Due credit to the phenomenal Chemical Brothers score for doing the same. The music simply electrifies the action sequences in a way few electronic film scores do in this genre.
Other than music, the depth of character sets “Hanna” apart from similar chase flicks. Like Jason Bourne, Hanna struggles with identity, but she also has the lack of life experience. She hasn’t had the experience of growing up as most girls do and she has no concept of society or other people for that matter. Wright plays this up in the excellent scene in a Moroccan hotel room when various elements of electric-powered items (which Hanna has minimal experience with) begin to go off at once.
Ronan fits her role perfectly from the outside in. She possesses the pale-faced naïveté of a young girl with piercing blue eyes that switch almost instantly to unsympathetic killer. Inside she gives Hanna everything from calculated emotion to raw longing: a very complete profile of a girl who has been raised the way she has. Seth Lochhead and David Farr’s script gives her the opportunity to deliver such full dimension, which gains more robustness as they play her off other characters such as Sophie (Jessica Barden), a British teenager on vacation with her family in Morocco who’s a bit of a shallow brat but still desiring a real connection to someone her age.
This might sound convenient, but Ronan looks to be developing the chops of co-star Blanchett. Blanchett is renowned for her versatility and adding tremendous characterization to her roles. Viegler, with her cold-blooded attitude and Country accent, could have easily been blown over-the-top by anyone with lesser ability. As with Ronan’s performance, Blanchett’s prowess starts with her distinct looks and travels down to the core of her characters. We have seen Ronan pull off nosy and mischievous (“Atonement”), innocent (“The Lovely Bones”) and now deadly. She has also never used her native Irish accent in a film, much like Blanchett almost never gets to be a natural Aussie.
“Hanna” only falters in scripting from a logistical sense, which Wright mostly covers up. The backstory and motivations of Hanna’s father and Marissa Viegler are wishy-washy and the events that help the chase go from point “A” to point “B” seem illogical at times or uninspired. No example better captures this than when Bana takes an escalator into a subway when it’s insanely obvious a character with his instincts would know he’s being followed. However, the action sequence that occurs as a result hits the spot and effectively counters the fact that the scene is a total ploy.
Wholly satisfying as an action film and thriller, “Hanna” showcases some positive trends in Hollywood from established musicians scoring films to formulaic stories that aim for depth ahead of action ingenuity. Thematic depth does lack a bit as the film tries to use symbolism and metaphor as adequate theme replacements, but they are intriguing and visually pleasing symbols and metaphors if it’s any consolation. Regardless, from an entertainment perspective, “Hanna” offers great thrills.
Directed by Joe Wright
Written by Seth Lochhead and David Farr
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander