Hanna (2011) Focus Features
1 hr. 49 mins.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Olivia Williams, Jessica Barden, Tom Hollander
Directed by: Joe Wright
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
Well, give British director Joe Wright some credit as he bravely abandons the serious period pieces that were his reliable bread and butter for more action-packed contemporary fare. Wright (“Atonement”, “Pride and Prejudice”) ventures into new territory with the teen killer thriller Hanna starring his Atonement Academy Award-nominated young leading lass Saoirse Ronan as the gun-toting galpal on a deadly grown-up mission. Although quite stylish and saddled with an extremely talented cast (including Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett as an emotionless villainess), Hanna disappointingly comes off as just an above average actioner that never really is as bitingly intriguing given the resilient performers involved in this percolating yet perfunctory project.
Sure, Wright does have a decent eye for serviceable action-packed cinema as Hanna has its share of considerable suspense ingredients: psychological cat-and-mouse chase scenes, shadings of redemption, exaggerated gunplay, avenging tendencies, revolving montages, etc. Still, the plot basically follows the pedestrian paths of other action-oriented suspense pieces that toot that very same hedonistic horn. With capable and credible actresses such as the gifted Ronan and resourceful Blanchett on board for the ride the standard Hanna should have been more than just an impish ragtag revenge romp with underlying angst. No doubt Wright knows his way around literary adaptations. However, Hanna drifts into mediocre mode despite the well-intentioned efforts to turn the destructive diva Ronan into an unassuming killing machine.
Sixteen year-old Hanna (Ronan) is a teen queen of a different kind. She is the daughter of an ex-CIA operative (Eric Bana, “The Time Traveler’s Wife”) whose upbringing in the Arctic Circle has toughened up this persuasive pixie. Hanna is certainly far away from the amenities of a normal teenage girl that range from cell phones to Justin Beiber concert tickets. In fact, her father has put some rather demanding training techniques on his unconventional “little girl” by teaching her the art of combat within the frozen tundra of her frost-bitten existence. Soon, the disciplined and multi-lingual Hanna will become a skilled assassin at a tender age when most girls that are her contemporaries are contemplating which cute high school football player they want to accompany to the nearest pizza shop.
Specifically, Hanna’s handling in combative methods has its purpose as she’s geared to face off with her father’s foe of the past-a diabolical female operative named Marissa (Cate Blanchett) who has proven to be a vital threat. Hanna’s soldiering skills in weaponry enforcement (guns, bows and arrows-take your pick) will come in handy if she is to mingle with the lethal Marissa in their eventual vitriolic confrontations. Soon we come to discover that Marissa’s obsession with Hanna is something more personalized as there is a caustic backstory regarding the two treacherous females and Hanna’s CIA-connected Daddy Dearest. In other words, let the dangerous games begin!
As the track down agenda for Hanna is underway the film briefly shifts its adrenaline-induced mood by trying to humanize this otherwise remorseless teen terrorist by having her befriend a peer in fellow youngster Sophie (Jessica Barden)-a British gal whose normalcy is realized through her preoccupation with what contemporary young girls should be fixated on…pop cultural platitudes. Naturally, Sophie and her vacationing family are a stark reminder of what Hanna is missing in her life and perhaps should have experienced as her hostile rearing produced her current destiny-a forced taste for alienation and antagonism.
As the crafty Hanna hops from one exotic location to another, the mischievous Marissa stacks the deck against her teenaged nemesis by hiring a crafty go-to “problem solver” (Tom Hollander) to assist in hunting down the tenacious teenybopper with the thirst for blood. In the meanwhile, Hanna’s father is determined to get the lowdown on the elusive Marissa as well.
Ronan is definitely an instinctive “find” as she demonstrates the urgency as an impressionable lost soul slated to do the impossible in stoically portraying a youthful detached slayer whose penchant for calculating destruction is both intoxicating and saddened. Clearly, Ronan is a terrific young actress that shows depth and determination…just witness her memorable turn in The Lovely Bones for instance. Still, Wright’s approach to using Ronan’s Hanna and Blanchett’s Marissa as scattered chess pieces in a chase-and-capture yawn pretty much becomes tiresome as the tension is watered down through its repetitive formulaic set up. There is nothing solidly balanced or original to hang your hat on until the inevitable climax reaches its destination.
The shot at internalized pressure and self-discovery in Hanna is admirable and the commentary on a young woman’s struggle with identity and expectation is a given theme to behold. If Wright’s bullet-spraying babe-in-the-woods could have only elevated her game a few more challenging notches then the staggering results would not have bombarded the piercing message of doom and gloom within the empty psyche of a tortured teen licking her chops for target practice.