Review: Joe Wright's 'Hanna' is a Solid Shot of Weighty Adrenaline

April 8, 2011

Hanna Review

Kids who kick butt in movie theaters aren't exactly in short order these days. Yes, I saw what I did there, too. After the flash and fantasy of films like Kick-Ass and Sucker Punch, movie goers might be looking for something a bit more grounded in their youths who kick, punch, and fire ample amounts of artillery. Grounded yet still high octane might be a better way to look at it. Enter Joe Wright (IMDb), the man who brought us Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist - not exactly Michael Bay when it comes to high energy action set pieces. That's a good thing, though, as Hanna delivers all the action and excitement you might expect from a veteran director of "things blowing up" movies

There's also a definite sense of naturalness to Hanna, a solidity and weight to its drama and characters that keeps you highly invested in all that action taking place. It's thrills and chills but it's also a significance in the mystery, an unfolding of its CIA espionage story that keeps your senses in tune with what's going on underneath as well as on the surface that makes Hanna work so well. Saoirse Ronan plays the titular character, a 16-year-old girl living in the wilderness with her father, played by Eric Bana. He trains her to hunt, to fight, and teaches her a general knowledge of the world away from the barrenness she has known all her life. He also instills in her a sense of hatred, of vengeance against one person - Marissa Weigler.

Weigler, played by Cate Blancett, is a CIA agent. She has been searching for Hanna's father for years, so, when the day comes for Hanna to leave the wilderness and seek out this act of vengeance for her father, a game of cat and mouse ensues that raises questions, delivers answers, and jolts Hanna's idea of the world and her place in it in ways she didn't expect.

Wright along with screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr do a great job in the way they handle information delivered to the audience. In the film's opening moments, we see Hanna and her father in the wilderness surviving on the animals they hunt. There's no back story. No information dump. No precursory exposition to get the audience up to speed on who these two are, and why we should care. We simply do, because we feel the connection between them, watch as father teaches daughter and understand the relationship at hand.

Even when Hanna and her father move to the world we are more comfortable with, Wright keeps the audience at arms length of the truth. There are flashbacks here and there, little bits of information delivered by showing us instead of telling us. It's the best way to deliver such information to the audience. We never feel like our hand is being held in the explanation. When new characters are introduced - most notably Tom Hollander's German hitman Isaacs who seems to rub creep into his hair -  their establishment is based on who they are, what we see them doing, and not an overabundance of needless dialogue just for the sake of catching us up.

And all of that is before the action kicks in. Wright isn't the most skilled at coordinating and shooting fight scenes. Particularly the fight scenes featuring Hanna herself that seem to utilize too much closeup and shaky cam to possibly cover what Ronan can't do. One fight scene in particular is all slo-mo, and the scene suffers for it. But for the most part, the action in Hanna is energetic, stylistically pieced together, and raged to wicked life with the aid of a thumping soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers. Wright loves his single tracking shots. Hanna features a number of them that include chases, story development, and fights all in one continuous shot. Each of them are breathtakingly executed, the kind of shots that make you reaching for a rewind button even in the theater.

None of the action, as stylized and fashionably shot as it may be, would work if you didn't care for these characters. The screenplay and Wright's handling of it is one part. The other comes from the acting, all of which is in top form here. Ronan commands her presence as Hanna, pulls out the sympathy when needed but never makes you question her ability to knock out some teeth. Hanna is a strong child role, one that requires an intensely gifted actress to take charge of it. That is something Ronan does almost effortlessly.

The same goes for Blanchett's Marissa, a character who is decidedly malevolent in her ways but who doesn't see herself as the villain of this story. Those are best types of villains, the ones who think their actions are for a greater good. Blanchett grasps that concept completely, almost making you second guess at times where her character's story is headed. When she turns on the evil, though, it all becomes clear, and she makes Marissa one of the most effective villains to come along in quite some time.

Stylishly paced yet oddly quirky in the fairy tale lens it puts over your eyes, Hanna is a top-notch thriller that delivers just as much depth in its mystery as it does action-packed feast for your senses. The action may not always be composed as well as it should be, and a few of Hanna's actions later in the film make you scratch your head - best not to say too much for fear of spoiling pivotal plot points - but Joe Wright has arrived as a director who can take on excitement as well as drama. Hanna is a solid shot to the heart, one that impacts, spreads, and keeps you enticed for loads more.

Jeremy's Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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Nice work Jeremy....have a rare weekend off and we trying to decide what to see. Thanks for making our choice!

Anonymous on Apr 8, 2011


I was pleasantly surprised at this one.The action was well directed and it had compelling visual storytelling. There were a few scant parts where I thought it got a little too "artistic" but those are easily forgiven. Overall this is a very solid film that I really enjoyed. Much better than my last two weeks at the box office which included Jane Eyre and that other film which shall remain nameless. Lets just say "I was unprepared" for how bad it was.

Mattfilm on Apr 9, 2011


wow 8.5 that must mean its good

A5J4DX on Apr 8, 2011


"The action may not always be composited as well as it should be" - composited if definitely not a word, so I guess you meant composed? Unless you were specifically referring to a broken composite shot within the film, which seems highly unlikely. anyway, JOURNALISM, FUCK YEAH.

Lebowski on Apr 9, 2011


YOU, sir, are 100% correct. Fixed and thank you.

Jeremy Kirk on Apr 9, 2011


Anytime I see FS give a movie anything over a 7.5, Im completely blown away when I go see that movie soooo yeah know what Im seeing this weekend.

Cody W. on Apr 9, 2011


While I think 8.5 is a little high, I did enjoy the film very much. I did like the fact that it feels like a 2 hour music video that does not grow old.

Joseph Bridges on Apr 9, 2011


Saw it, loved it

Paul Cyr on Apr 10, 2011


It kinda made no sense but with all the crappy movies lately, it still was a nice change and the music by the CB was excellent too. Def an 7.5 in my book.

Anonymous on Apr 10, 2011


The coolest concept is that Blanchett's character could have been played by a male. It almost seems to be written for a man, but Cate DESTROYS this role. She's an absolute beast, and Saoirse matches her beast to beast. Its an acting tour de force.

Duane on Apr 10, 2011


Aside from Blanchett, who I usually am apathetic towards....I didn't think this movie made a lick of sense. The plot was interesting....kind of, but the story wasn't fleshed out well enough. In particular the storyline attached to the ever so cliche' "DNA experimentation" of Hanna. As much as I enjoyed the Chemical Brothers music, it did not mesh well with the overall style of the movie. They seemed at odds with each other. A tense subtle score would have fit this film better, and been a better addition to the emotion of the film. I enjoyed the character of Hanna, especially the aspects of the plot where she's experiencing the world for the first time. I honestly wish they would've gone into more depth in that area. Where to begin with the action. I'm not sure what the reviewer is talking about when he mentions the intense action. I thought it was awful, and a lot of it didn't make sense. The part where she ends up in the shipyard....? It seemed like she made a left hand turn and went from one setting to a completely unexplainable setting specifically set up just for an action scene, and a very cliche' one at that. But the worst, and I do mean WORST, possibly the worst action scene I've ever seen period was the fight scene on the playground. The slow mo...awful, and the fighting in general looked an awful lot like WWE. The dramatic facial expressions, the obviously fake fighting, the leaning into the swings like they were the ropes of a was horrendous. A lot of the action to me seemed like it was based on the plot line of a video game (Ex: jumping over the containment trailers, trying to beat the one moving on the crain). I desperately wanted to like this one, and hung on to hope even through the playground fight scene but lost it and gave up when Hanna went to that weird house towards the end. Very random, and weird movie. Too many pieces were juxtaposed to each other (the music v style of film, the WWE fighting set in slow mo, the serious dramatic acting with the amateur action sequences). Wanted to love this, but I'd give it a solid 3 out of 10 at best.

ImaginaryVisionary on Apr 11, 2011

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