Hanna

Movie Information

The Story: A 16-year-old, highly trained assassin goes on the run from a CIA operative who wants her dead. The Lowdown: Extremely stylish art-house/thriller mash-up that's sometimes a victim of its own formal excellence and precision, but is nonetheless compelling entertainment.
Score:

Genre: Arty Action Thriller
Director: Joe Wright (Atonement)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Barden, Olivia Williams
Rated: PG-13

Joe Wright’s Hanna is something of a curio. It’s every inch an action thriller—with a slight sci-fi bent—but it’s also very much the product of an art-house sensibility. In other words, it’s exactly what you might expect with the director of Atonement (2007) let loose on an action picture. That’s both the good news and the bad news. It means that Hanna is one of the most gorgeously constructed and stylish action movies ever to come along. It also means that it’s all a little on the genteel side—a bit too controlled for its own good—especially within the safety of its PG-13 confines. If ever a movie needed to go just a little further than it does in terms of excess, Hannah is that film.

I don’t mean to give the impression that Hanna isn’t a good film, because it most certainly is a good film. It’s also notable as a surprisingly coherent action film. You’ll find no trace of the modern tendency to rapidly cut together a jumble of close-up frenzy where you have no clue what’s going on or who’s doing what to whom and call it an action scene. All the action here makes perfect physical sense. That’s a huge plus, but it also feels like it’s part and parcel of the film’s somewhat-too-careful approach, which tends to blunt the element of surprise. And that’s not a good thing in an action thriller. It becomes a pretty big issue toward the end of the movie—once the story gets past the revelation about Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) that the trailer strongly hints at—to the degree that anyone with a memory ought to be able to guess exactly where things are going and how the film will end.

All these reservations—which really come down to variations on one reservation—to one side, what we have here is a stylish, entertaining and often downright quirky film that pleases far more than it doesn’t. It takes a very simple premise—16-year-old, highly trained assassin Hanna leaves the safety of her northern wilderness hideout and is pursued by ruthless CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett) and her decidedly non-government murderous minions—and spins out for nearly two hours without much in the way of dead space. The film’s embellishments—including Hanna’s funny/touching encounter with a family of traveling Brits and their sexually precocious daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden, Tamara Drewe)—keep it all interesting. The fact that the film is approached as a somewhat twisted fairy tale—with Blanchett as wicked stepmother and her equally fantasticated henchmen (Tom Hollander’s whistling killer feels like a riff on Peter Lorre’s child murderer in Fritz Lang’s 1931 M)—only adds to the fascination. (This is especially true in its last act, set appropriately in a rundown amusement park.)

Imperfect it is, but Hanna has enough wit, style and drive to make it one of the more compelling films to come along this year, though I somehow doubt it’s a film that will really hold up to—or be improved by—subsequent viewings. Even if it is a case of “once is enough,” there’s so much out there that complaining about it seems churlish. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

12 thoughts on “Hanna

  1. DrSerizawa

    Well, it wasn’t boring. But I was annoyed by the style over narrative or even over coherence. I don’t mind at all having to work to appreciate a movie but ultimately I don’t think this one was worth the effort. If Hanna can escape a secret base manned by professionals why would 3 thugs be a bother to her? Not to mention I couldn’t figure out why a wind tunnel was buried in the Sahara desert. The movie was well acted and the cinematography was fine but it just seemed sort of empty behind the high level of stylization. Still, I’m not sorry I saw it. My .02 anyhow.

  2. Ken Hanke

    The movie was well acted and the cinematography was fine but it just seemed sort of empty behind the high level of stylization.

    I think that’s the curse of it looking and feeling like it ought to be more than an action movie.

  3. Robin Raianiemi

    I really dug HANNA. It was art-designed to within an inch of it’s life, but I was grooving on it; it’s a Joe Wright trademark, now.

  4. Blane Stanaland

    Hey Ken, isn’t it odd that after one such a dull first quarter, three good movies appear all in within a week? You could pull a great triple feature some Sunday afternoon.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I don’t remember The Soloist being quite that, but then I’ve pretty much forgotten it altogether. This struck me as less art-directed than Atonement, which was too art-directed for its own good.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Hey Ken, isn’t it odd that after one such a dull first quarter, three good movies appear all in within a week?

    I’m only counting two in this lot — and The Conspirator actually opens today. I do have great hopes for Certified Copy and Win Win.

  7. Ken Hanke

    You must have liked it! I don’t think you’ve ever been moved to post in the movie section before.

  8. Lisa Watters

    Well, perhaps under an alias I have …

    But no more! I will post all my opinions about movies proudly under my own name! I will press bravely on under the ‘Watters’ banner to speak the truth as I experience it! I will valiantly …

  9. Ken Hanke

    But no more! I will post all my opinions about movies proudly under my own name! I will press bravely on under the ‘Watters’ banner to speak the truth as I experience it! I will valiantly …

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like singing “La Marseillaise” after that.

  10. pepiacebo

    Lisa, Ken, yes, it’s haunting.

    I know the Brit family must be dead, but the movie didn’t clearly say so.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever leave the house and go to Morocco again.

    Tons better than Salt.

  11. lilly lily

    I hated Atonement, loved Pride and Prejudice, and I absolutly loved Hanna.

    Saw it yesterday, will see it again.

    James Bond as a female teen. I think there will be more of Hanna eventually.

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