Hanna is full of questions without answers. I don’t mean those about the eponymous Hanna, the mysterious teen who can shoot, run, jump, kick and punch her way out of any situation, or about mystery man Eric Bana who claims to be her father, or why they’re relentlessly pursued by Kate Blanchett’s power-dressing wicked-witch of the West.
I mean other questions: who was Hanna made for? Why do we need it? Why has director Joe Wright broken a credible run of dramas (Anna Karenina, The Soloist, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) to make this luke-warm, misplaced espionage caper?
Hanna contains movie tropes from every spy thriller since Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer took to the screen. Other action movies such as Leon, Bond and especially Bourne cast a very long shadow. If you’re into your spies, hitmen, chases and punch-ups, then there’s fun to be had watching Saoirse Ronan’s ethereal waif kick seven bells out of the stunt crew; but it’s no more than we’ve seen before in La Femme Nikita, Lara Croft, Fifth Element or anything else with Mila Jovovich. There is a heart-racing action set-piece in an underpass, where Bana proves he’s the James Bond we deserved, the super-spy action-man taking on an elite CIA hit-squad. It’s well-choreographed, with flowing, fast, agile camerawork, by far the best piece of work in the movie and it throws the rest into sharp relief. The rest of the action never lives up to this one Matrix-Bourne inspired sequence.
But, you may say, it’s a chase movie that’s as much about strong plot and character. It’s true the whole overblown espionage thing is no more than an excuse to roam from the Arctic Circle to Morocco to Berlin, but unfortunately it never lives up to the promise of the early reels. Instead, Hanna’s martial arts prowess, six languages and reciting of encylopaedia facts merely reminded me of the uber-spoof of all spy movies Flint (James Coburn’s parody of Bond).
Joe Wright has fun with the petty-Anglais, boho tourist family parachuted in from another movie, with whom Hanna hitches across Europe (Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Aldo Maland). Wright proves he can direct the domestic, and children in particular. Hanna forging a friendship with another teen and terrifying her first boyfriend are sweet relief in what is otherwise a chilly and alienating film. That may suit Hanna’s point of view, newly unleashed on our world, but hardly does anything for the audience. Ronan is a captivating screen presence, but as the invulnerable uber-mensch, never the sympathetic centre of the movie.
And that’s because we are continually drawn away by the adult stars of the film. There’s a very frosty and over-wraught performance from Blanchett, her emmaciated face with sharp features and hollow cheekbones looks like a blow-up doll with a puncture. I’m trying to remember at what point Blanchett caught Streep’s Syndrome and we began to see her acting. Bana applies all his integrity to be an earnest German CIA Agent and merely makes himself look silly. Tom Hollander makes the daftest henchman since Mini-Me, all peroxide blond locks, camp androgeny, whistling opera tunes and displaying pantomime cruelty.
Since Wright comes at this from outside the genre, Hanna had endless possibilities, but limps instead toward a lack-lustre girls-with-guns ending. I expected more. RC
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Seth Lochhead and David Farr
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng