Hanna Movie Review: A Worthwhile Viewing Endeavor

Written by Chris Morgan

Joe Wright’s 2011 film Hanna is a film more interesting in concept than in execution. That’s not to say that the movie does not succeed to some degree as it is. It’s just that it doesn’t quite live up to the intriguing premise as well as one would have hoped.

Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular Hanna. She lives with her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) in the middle of a vast, empty wilderness up in the Arctic Circle. The two live miles from civilization, but Erik makes sure Hanna has plenty to do. Namely, she has been trained to be a world-class assassin, with the sole goal of her being prepared, when the time comes, to kill CIA operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). The time comes for Hanna and Erik to leave the wilderness, and head back to civilization. They go their separate ways, planning to reconnect after Wiegler is dead.

Naturally, there are complications, and the characters and the audience happen upon revelations. There are fight scenes and murders and all that stuff. In essence, the movie is not unlike a film from the Bourne franchise, only this time Jason Bourne is a teenaged girl. Also, she has no memory of the modern urban world, and so many things are a new experience to her no matter how much her father trained her. Plus, she meets another teenaged girl along the way and sparks her first-ever friendship. Despite the initial premise, this movie is as much about Hanna dealing with being a girl in the world as it does with her being a highly skilled assassin.

This is a good thing, as it allows the movie to actually have some depth and some emotion, and keeps it from being a completely hollow action movie. After all, even the Bourne movies have Jason Bourne trying to find out his past and uncover some truths, and falling in love with the woman from Run, Lola, Run while fighting with Clive Owen. Unfortunately, the bifurcated nature of the movie seems to hurt both sides of the story in equal parts. The action intrigue is fine, but feels fairly rote at times, even when it is Hanna doing her thing. On the other hand, Hanna’s interactions with the world are interesting at first, but then wheels began to be spun, and the family Hanna spends time with doesn’t bring much to the table, even if the matriarch is played by Olivia Williams. The teenage girl in the family is a bit irritating too. In part, this is because she is seemingly supposed to be the quintessential bratty, sassy teenaged girl, but the execution is off enough to make it genuine an irritant at times.

Ronan is fine as Hanna. She is a child actress, and thereby her skills are limited. She did a good job, which is all you can ask for a kid in a major film role. Bana does a good job in his role. He has had a somewhat odd American film career, and he hasn’t seemed to find a way to “click” in movies yet, but he certainly has some talent, and the physical prowess for a role like this. Blanchett uses a completely bonkers accent for her role. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. This isn’t like Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. Her otherworldly, seemingly Southern accent is bizarre, but in an oddly engaging way, and of course she is a tremendous actress, which helps. Wright engages in many a filmmaking and camera trick. He really puts a stamp on the film. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some of his indulgences are alright, even a positive, but much of it doesn’t really work. There is one scene in particular done through a series of extreme closeups that is just baffling and disorienting. Also, the soundtrack was apparently done by The Chemical Brothers, so just make a note of that.

Hanna is a good movie, a nice mix of action and coming of age. You know, that old cinematic trope. It has more depth than you might expect, and it is straight up dark at times, but there is still plenty of elaborately choreographed fight scenes for the action fan. It just has enough flaws and errors to keep it from being anything more than an interesting but moderately successful action flick. Having a teenager in the main role, pretty much a necessity but still a mild detriment, doesn’t help, although it doesn’t really hurt either in the end. Wright probably should have used a lighter touch, and the balance between the two sides of the film could have been struck better, but enough is done well to make for a worthwhile film-viewing endeavor.

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