Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Joe Wright, director
Seth Lochhead & David Farr, script based on Lochhead’s idea
Starring: Saoirse (pronounced Seer-she) Ronan (Hanna Heller), Eric Bana (Erik Heller), Cate Blanchett (Marissa Wiegler), Jessica Barden (Sophie), Olivia Williams (Rachel), Jason Flemyng (Sebastian)
A contemporary thriller with a futuristic twist, Hanna is a Euro-trash fairy tale gone awfully awry. Its storytelling roots are historic. Hanna is the saga of the princess who bravely comes to claim her throne, only to find herself threatened by evil witches and terrifying assassins.
A truly Grimm tale, its twists are upsetting and often extremely violent. There is little of Walt Disney’s legends in Hanna though one could argue that Sleeping Beauty was an inspiration for the story.
Raised amongst snowdrifts and evergreen trees, beautiful blonde haired Hanna leaves her Northern life behind to embrace the world down South. As a girl, she lived a wondrous, if lonely, childhood, raised by her mysterious father Erik, hunting deer and bear while learning to speak multiple languages and developing superb physical and intellectual skills.
Once the United States finds out that Hanna is alive, they send their best operatives to capture and kill her–led by Marissa Wiegler (played by Cate Blanchett in the same chilly style as Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton). But Hanna proves elusive–and as much a killer as Marissa. Initially captured by intelligence agents, Hanna escapes their highly industrialized lair, killing a few of Marissa’s colleagues as she departs.
Finding herself in Morocco, Hanna slowly works her way towards Germany, where she is supposed to meet Erik. While pursued by Marissa’s agents, she develops a close relationship with Sophie, a British girl around her age, who is traveling in a trailer camper with her free-thinking parents and little brother. Hanna’s lack of sophistication leads to some banter between the two–but regrettably, the threat of Marissa doesn’t allow for much humour or character development.
Inevitably, Hanna must arrive in Germany, where her fate and that of her father Erik are inextricably bound to Marissa….
Hanna reunites director Joe Wright with Saoirse Ronan, who was brilliant as the willful younger sister to Keira Knightley in Atonement. The rapport between the two is evidently strong but the genre conventions of a thriller work against them. We root for Hanna without knowing why—and when we find out about her origins, it’s difficult to understand why so many organizations oppose her.
Effectively directed and well acted, Hanna is a puzzler in more than one way. Wright, Blanchett, Ronan and Bana are too good to be playing in a “B” thriller–and they succeed in elevating the film. But the film’s central sci-fi ideas about mutants and genetic experiments aren’t explored with enough skill to make Hanna as strong as it should be.
We’re left with stylish but empty content: Euro-trash indeed.