Hanna is the brand new action flick that opened today. Directed by Joe Wright, and starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, and Eric Bana, the film hopscotches across a couple of continents, 4 different countries, and is a thrilling roller coaster ride of cinematic action.
As the film opens, we are somewhere above the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland. Young Hanna (16?) is alone in the snow covered forest and will soon confront a huge elk. She’s going to dispatch this animal with a bow and arrow. She acquires her target and shoots. She hits him, but misses his heart so she has to chase him down, and finish the job with a handgun.
Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf – 1975
Rather quickly after that we come to learn that Hana and her father Erik, played by Eric Bana, are living in remote Northern Finland, far away from civilization and other folks. Erik has trained Hanna in the arts of self defense as well as in the arts of self-offense as if to make her a killing machine.
We don’t know why they’re hiding in the Finnish forest or why Eric has trained Hanna. But Joe Wright and his screenwriting team of Seth Lochhead and David Farr, do a superb job of filling us in little by little. Questions do come up, and we do get answers in most cases but not all.
A little bit further along, Erik unveils for his daughter a machine, that was previously buried under the snow and earth, about 40 paces away, that will transmit an electronic signal that will be picked up in Europe and relayed to the some folks in Langley. Specifically to Cate Blanchett as Marissa Weigart. Erik leaves it up to Hanna to decide when to push the lever that will send the signal. He warns Hanna –
“Once you push that switch it won’t end until either she kills you or you kill her.”
Eric soon leaves and shortly thereafter Marissa’s operatives perform a night raid of the gingerbread-like house deep in the forest. There is a brief fire fight, and some of the raiding party have just gone on their last raid.
When Hanna awakens, we see that she is in orange prison garb, in a technologically perfect cell, and she’s being questioned by a kindly (not really) doctor who responds when Hanna asks – Where am I, by telling her she is in holding.
Holding turns out to be a subterranean complex buried somewhere in Morocco. Her captors want to know where her father is. But before you can even begin to think of some coming torture, Hanna takes out a fake Marissa and a few soldiers and makes her escape.
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen – 1975
So the chase begins. We go across Morocco, enter Spain via a ferry, and everyone – Hanna, Erik, Marissa and her off-the-books personal hit team (two skin-heads and their dandified boss) will all end up in Germany.
It’s thrilling to watch as a straight action flick, but Wright works his magic very effectively. He will find a way to surprise you scene after scene. You literally won’t know what will come next. The music is very effective as is the film’s pacing and editing. The action is always brutal and fast. You won’t be seeing a lot of blood. In fact, the whole film is done in a rather muted palette. But the mere lack of bright red blood doesn’t make the movie any less thrilling.
For Saoirse Ronan, this role is quite different than what she had to do in Atonement. She looks like a normal teenage girl, but she’s never met another woman other than her mother. As for the mother, we get a glimpse or two of her. When Hanna is asked what did her mother die from, she answers tersely and truthfully – “Three bullets,” which was a great line and was not the answer you expected. But as far as portraying an angelic assassin, Saoirse not only looks perfect for the role, but she nails it on an action level.
Natural Born Killers – Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis – 1994
Bana is also quite skilled in the killing arts. But his European accent seems somewhat out of place.
Blanchett on the other hand has a southern (USA) accent which unfortunately comes and goes. I’m not sure why they selected Blanchett for the role. She’s a superb actress, but this type of film is rather new for her. But on a performance level she is suitably icy and evil. As for her obsession with killing Eric and Hanna, this isn’t made entirely clear, but that is a problem of the screenplay – not the actress.
So why was Hanna trained in the killing arts? Why has Eric, her father kept her hidden and away from everything a father in normal circumstances makes available to a daughter? What is Marissa’s stake in all of this? All of these are answered.
There’s one more major thematic question, What was Hanna born to do? But I won’t answer that question for you. You’ll need to see the film to get that answer.