movie review: Hanna

Hanna opens with a bang and sustains both its extraordinary energy and its central enigma for quite a while. If, ultimately, there is a little bit less here than meets the eye, the high-octane action and a riveting performance by Saoirse Ronan still make the film worth seeing.Since her breakthrough role in Atonement four years ago (also directed by Joe Wright), this teenager has proven herself to be a world-class talent. She carries much of Hanna on her slender shoulders, bringing the necessary physicality and soulfulness to the story, by Seth Lochhead and David Farr.

Hanna has been raised by her father (the always-watchable Eric Bana, here playing a German) in the snowy wilds of Finland, where he has indoctrinated her with fundamental, take-no-prisoners survivalist training. She can kill a deer with a bow and arrow, eviscerate it and prepare it for dinner without batting an eyelash. On the other hand, she has never been exposed to—

— the outside world and her only frame of reference is an aging book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. As she is growing up, Dad decides that it’s time for her to leave their cloistered cabin—if she can stay one step ahead of the CIA agents who are going to be on her tail (and her father’s), in particular a hard-nosed Langley veteran played, with a broad American accent, by Cate Blanchett.

Hanna jolts us out of our familiar world. We share its leading character’s emotional and physical odyssey as she runs, leaps, hides, and burrows her way through several countries. Along the way she tries to understand who she is, where she came from, and what her connection is to the dogged Blanchett.

Unfortunately, as Hanna comes to a climax its edgy originality diminishes. The physical production, and spare music score by The Chemical Brothers, is impressive from start to finish, but the story wrap-up is somewhat predictable and the movie winds up like a conventional, violent chase-thriller. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it seems a shame the film can’t end with the same impact that marks its opening scenes.

What doesn’t erode in any way is one’s admiration for Saoirse Ronan, who can hold her own with Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, or any other talented actor you care to name. If we’re rating this strictly as a vehicle for her, Hanna hit’s a bull’s-eye.

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February 2024