HANNA

Odeon East Kilbride, 06.05.11

There’s so many things that don’t or shouldn’t work in Joe Wright’s latest film that it shouldn’t be any good, yet somehow, it still works as an enjoyable, fast-paced piece of entertainment.

There’s not much plot, and what there is seems to be utter nonsense.  Hanna (an excellent Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl being brought up in the northern snowy wilds of Europe, by her father Erik (Eric Bana), who teaches her how to fight, hunt and survive.  They are hiding from Marissa, a shady CIA operative played with energy by Cate Blanchett, who, unbeknown to Hanna, killed her mother when Hanna was born as they tried to escape from a CIA medical experiment, which has left Hanna having abnormal DNA that increases her physical characteristics.  There’s something about trying to develop a super soldier and the project being scrapped when most of the infants died, but all this backstory is really just an excuse to kick off a massive pan-Africa and pan-European chase movie.  There’s nothing particularly original here, it’s well-worn ground from numerous chase films, cold war films, spy films and action films.

An excellent cast is led by Saoirse Ronan, and her central performance holds the film together and maintains the interest through all the running about, as she convincingly learns the truth about her past, as well as having her eyes opened to the real world that she has been sheltered from in childhood.  Cate Blanchett overacts and becomes almost pantomime villainess, but somehow this suits the over the top part.  Eric Bana is bland as Hanna’s adoptive father, while Olivia Williams and Jason Flemying are wasted as unknowing parents whom Hanna stows away with. Their daughter, Sophie, played by Jessica Barden who befriends Hanna, nails some moments of humour, and equally grates as a precocious girl.  Most disappointing is Tom Hollander, stuck in the offensive stereotype of a violent sadistic homosexual, surrounded by his equally offensive stereotyped skinhead henchmen.

The chase maintains its pace throughout and never seems dull or repetitive, achieved through some fast paced, but never confusing, editing, and fantastic use of lightning and setting.  It’s also helped by the music of The Chemical Brothers.  Like Tron: Legacy (2010, Joseph Kosinski), with Daft Punk, the music is outstanding, but with Tron, it was in support of an inferior film, and as such swamped the film and became the best and most memorable thing about the entire experience.  Here, The Chemical Brothers have a better film to score, and while it occasionally does feel like it’s tipping into MTV music video land, it manages to stay the right side of supporting the action and not encroaching upon it.

Hanna marks another shift in the career of Joe Wright, after literary period Pride and Prejudice (2005), his outstanding war-time drama, Atonement (2007) and his unfairly ignored moral fable The Soloist (2009).  Here, he proves he can handle fast paced action, although it seems partially at the expense of the full characterisation of his previous two films.  Only Hanna herself comes across as a sympathetic, fully developed character, and one wonders if there was any recutting to cut out some character stuff in favour of the chase scenes.

But, despite all these drawbacks, Hanna is still reasonably intelligent, adult entertainment that treats its audience with respect, and as such stands above most of the Hollywood action fare being trundled out this summer.

Film Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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