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The Hanna Movie Review: Teen Assassin Tour de Force from Joe Wright

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Hanna is an unusual film.  You have a director (Joe Wright) best known for Atonement and Pride & Prejudice doing a spy/assassin movie with slight science fiction undertones.  And really, that’s exactly what this is.

The story, at least the part you can infer from the trailers, concerns a teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan as the titular Hanna) who’s been raised from birth to be an assassin by her father (Eric Bana), and there’s something about her that’s just a little off.  She’s finally loosed upon the world and is on a collision course with a government agent (Cate Blanchett) who has a history with her father.

You end up with three threads running through the movie.  A body count thread as the forces of Blanchett cross paths with Ronan and Bana.  An espionage thread as the shared path of Bana and Blanchett slowly reveals itself.  And finally, a discovering the world thread.

All of these threads are worthwhile, but it’s the discovering the world thread that makes this movie an odd duck and relates a bit more to Wright’s previous work.  One of the key components of a Tarzan movie, if they’re retelling the origin, is Tarzan learning the ways of man.  Ronan’s character has been hiding out in the forest, learning to kill people her entire life.  She’s not used to be around people who aren’t her father and she’s not used to modern conveniences.  In that regard, the character is something like Tarzan.  Unlike Tarzan, she’s been highly educated by her father.  She just hasn’t seen anything of the world.  In a way, this is a sort of meditation on book learning vs. experiential learning with a little bit of coming of age thrown in on the side.

“Oh, no,” says the action movie fan.  “That sounds touchy feely and boring.”

Well, if they just did that for 2 hours straight, maybe.  Wright has a pretty good sense of how long to linger on Ronan’s journey of self-discovery before cutting to an espionage scene or a fight.  And he gets a few good chuckles out of the character bits.

The performances are good all around, although Cate Blanchett with a really bad haircut and red tresses backed up by a Southern accent takes a little getting used to.

When you start mixing art house and action, one of the things that can go wrong is the story softens up.  That doesn’t happen with Hanna.  This is a cruel film without pity.  People die.  You think for a moment, perhaps it’s going to go a bit soft with the ending and suddenly there is no flinch.  The final line has catchphrase potential if enough people see it.

Bottom line, this should fill the appetite for the thinking man’s blood bath, but still have bits to keep the more pedestrian action movie lover and his date happy.  Enthusiastically recommended.

Fair warning, though.  I tend to like it when art house and bullets mingle.  Ang Lee’s Hulk was just exactly what I was expecting walking in and I enjoyed.  Always take the reviewer’s biases into account.

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