A cold vast icy environment pans itself towards one of its inhabitants. A deer’s breath is clearly visible as it breathes through its nostrils and just like that it is struck down by an arrow. A female adolescent walks up to her target and says “I just missed your heart.” Director Joe Wright introduces us to Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), a stealthy and cunning 16 year-old teenager raised in the cold forests of Finland by her former CIA agent father Erik Heller (Eric Bana). Hanna doesn’t realize it but she is a secret government project, who has been trained in survival and fighting skills by Heller in order to protect her from Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett), a cold and ruthless CIA agent on the hunt for those who were connected to the young girl.
Hanna isn’t your typical spy action thriller; the film also shares the elements of fairy tale wonder and discovering one’s own identity. At first the idea is sound and with actors like Ronan, Bana, and Blanchett in the film, how could it go wrong? Well, editing is the first problem. The film seems out of order, misplaced, and it’s easy for the audience to get lost and forget what happened in previous scenes. Another reason this film lacks perfection is the pacing. While the plot of the film is clearly established by Wright, his directorial style makes it seem as though the pacing is awkward and forced.
Finally, Wright doesn’t allow the audience to familiarize themselves with Hanna. From the moment we are introduced to Hanna to the time she ends up in the Moroccan desert, the only thing we know about her is that she is a secret government project and that she does not know what it’s like to hear music. Wright cleverly attempts to cover his tracks by disorientating the audience with elliptical shots, flashing lights, and blasting the score to its maximum volume level and for a while this works, but for a majority of the time it doesn’t.
Luckily, it’s not all bad. What works are the visuals, performances, and score. Wright was given a very limited budget, and to compensate for that lack of a budget, the director chose to shoot on location rather than have a green screen or shots that would hurt the studio’s wallet during post-production. From the icy distant environments of Finland and hot deserts of Morocco to the urban areas of Berlin and an abandoned fairy tale amusement park, the setting establishes the tone for each of the characters in their respective scenes and feels natural.
Performances all around are fairly strong. Ronan is magical and alluring as Hanna. She displays all the characteristics of a child who lacks the ability to understand what a true family is, or what it is like to have a real boyfriend, but isn’t afraid to throw you down. She eases herself abruptly into a hippie family vacation where the eldest daughter takes her out into the world of music and boys. Blanchett is a scary meticulous CIA agent whose ruthlessness and cold, distant demeanor and big bad wolf persona is strangely attractive. Bana fits his role as Heller perfectly and has a strong screen presence while Tom Hollinder’s performance as a playful hitman who whistles the main theme is fun to watch.
The score by the Chemical Brothers is everything you come to expect from the musical group and more. You have a soothing tune that seems to be the theme for Hanna’s sweet innocent side, while there is a threatening and powerful theme that represents the polar opposite. Most of what you hear was created before the film started shooting and was created to match with each and every movement in the action sequences. But like TRON: Legacy, since the film lacks depth, it looks like a near two-hour long music video.
One of the film’s lifesavers are the one-take action scenes. Bana taking on a group of CIA agents all by himself makes you not want to blink, while Ronan running and jumping from container to container in a shipyard will take your breath away. These scenes are exciting and exhilarating and I wish there were more.
Hanna tries to hard to be the spy thriller that separates itself from the rest of the spy thrillers that have been or will be released. The unstructured editing, pacing, and one dimensional characters are a determent to this film, but audiences may be able to over look all of it if they can appreciate the cinematography, score, and performances from Ronan, Blanchett, and Bana. The film doesn’t miss the mark totally, but I think it could have been a lot better than what we get here.