MOVIE REVIEW Forget Jason Bourne — it’s time to meet Hanna!
Joe Wright’s first thriller is brilliant and suspenseful, like Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, and Eric Bana
Hanna opens with some beautiful panoramas of the beautiful, snow-covered remote wilderness of Finland. In this silent, almost enchanted landscape, a girl — later introduced as Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) — hunts and eventually kills a stag, demonstrating some unusual skills for a 16-year-old. Soon it becomes clear that Hanna has mostly been living alone with her father Erik (Eric Bana). Erik, a former CIA agent, has been training his daughter her entire life to become an assassin. The two have been hiding from civilization since the day she was born, and Hanna’s only knowledge of the outside world comes from the languages and information that her father teaches her from books. This knowledge remains very abstract to the girl, though. In one scene Hanna asks her father about the sound of music — she knows the definition of “music” from an encyclopedia but has never heard any. Ronan lists this curiosity as one of her favorite aspects of her character: “We meet her as she goes out on her own, and when she does she is fascinated by everyone and everything she comes across. My favorite quality of hers is that she is non-judgmental; she shows an open mind to, and a fascination with, everything.”
Later, we learn that Hanna is the result of a secret CIA project to genetically enhance embryos to improve their muscle strength, stamina, and reflexes while suppressing their ability to feel fear and empathy. The agency terminated the program at some point, and the agent in charge, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), ordered all the children killed. Erik saved Hanna and has been hiding her ever since.
One night Hanna approaches her father and tells him that she is ready for her mission. He reveals a hidden box with a transmitter and explains that if she activates it, the CIA will come and find them. He makes it very clear that Marissa will try to kill Hanna when the device is activated; the only escape is to kill the agent first. Since Hanna is the only person who can get close enough to Marissa, she will have to do that job. The girl thinks for a while, finally deciding to activate the transmitter. Thus begins an epic chase across Europe, and the supposed hunters will soon become the prey.
Wright’s film is yet another movie featuring a female assassin. On the surface, Hanna might appear comparable to the female characters of Kill Bill, Kick-Ass or Sucker Punch, but Hanna actually contributes another dimension to this type of character. Hanna is distinct because she is very serious and shows no comical characteristics. Saoirse Ronan — who suggested Joe Wright as director in the first place — performs incredibly well despite having almost no previous experience in the thriller and action genre. It is impressive to see how different the character Hanna and the 17-year-old Irish actress are.
Hanna not only feature well-chosen actors, but is also an overall solid production. The movie offers distinctively atmospheric or surreal settings, like bustling towns in northern Morocco and gypsy camps in southern Spain, contrasting the silence of the remote wilderness of Finland. In one particular scene Marissa chases Hanna across a run-down Little Red Riding Hood-themed rollercoaster. When they finally meet, Marissa steps out of the shadow of the maw of a huge wolf statue, illustrating that she is the ultimate villain in this movie.
Hanna also features great cinematography with stunning tracking shots and a fantastic soundtrack by The Chemical Brother, who also contributed to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.
Hanna’s background story is revealed slowly and subtly during the movie. Whenever the film slows a bit between well-choreographed action sequences, the tension is maintained by developing the story and answering some of the audience’s questions. The amazing script was originally developed by Seth Lochhead while he was still a student at Vancouver Film School, and later refinements were assisted by David Farr.
Joe Wright’s film is a brilliant, suspenseful thriller, with unique characters, unexpected twists, well-crafted action sequences, an intelligent story, and amazing actors. If you liked The Bourne Trilogy and you want to procrastinate a little while preparing for finals, you should definitely go and see this film. It’s time to meet Hanna!