Heart-racing. Hanna though could have been a masterful thriller had it not chosen to succumb to gimmicky shortcuts. I insist that it chooses to throw itself to gimmicks. Because there is so much filmmaking expertise and high style demonstrated that it had no need to slow itself to error. A few snips in the editing room could have made corrections. The premise: its title teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan) has been trained since early youth to become an assassin by her father Erik (Eric Bana) although I had doubts whether or not he is her actual father since few guardians would actually combat train his own offspring this incessantly. For years they have hidden in an electricity-free cabin in Finland, with Eric finalizing his tutelage of Hanna before he dispatches her to assassinate his former CIA agent boss (Cate Blanchett). This chase thriller encompasses Morocco as well as Eastern Bloc Europe. One fantastic highlight is an escape breakout from secret military outfits that is filmed in the kind of pulsating electronic-thumping employed in Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” (1999). The cinematography throughout is persistently flashy but striking. When this Joe Wright (“Atonement”) film does slow down you can’t wait for it to speed up again. Music by the Chemical Brothers works exponentially well during the fast sequences.
Ronan might very well be the best teenage actress today (her sincere depth elevated both “Atonement” and “The Lovely Bones”), but this time she plays her part strictly – and determinedly – like a girl who has been overly programmed for which she has. When Hanna sees a television, a beserk tea kettle and a ceiling fan for the first time – objects whirling with intense electronic power – it is in its very conception an unnecessary scene because the director is overstating the point with symbolic exaggeration. The core message is that this unfathomably brave and stealth heroine is still vulnerably open to be startled with culture shock, is communicated already to the audience by Ronan’s subtle and adroit acting. The other fault in the Moroccan segments is that there are too many coincidental run-ins with an English family (Hanna befriends the one daughter). As astutely written the dialogue happens to be it still can’t cover up how tritely arranged this bonding turns out to be.
Fortunately, this is a thriller that darts around quite forcefully with villains as strong as its heroine. Blanchett whom is sometimes an actress I could use less of but here convinces me that she can be at times a great asset to a film. Marissa the CIA agent is the kind of inhuman power-crazed bitch that suits the glacial-cold actress seamlessly. The first time we see any kind of emotion come from her it is fear, yet even that emotion is glazed over by shock – the shock that someone has outdone her. Also introduced is a German spy who runs around in a track suit while chasing his targets in hot and cold climates, but even while perceived as a formidable foe to Hanna and Erik, he’s still mincemeat in comparison to wolf-woman Marissa. One scene makes it a point that she doesn’t mind blood in her teeth.
The deserted Grimm fairy-tale park and other German attractions are effectively employed into the build-up of the finale, and when it is at its best, the action has a startling sudden kick. Wright often choreographs his action scenes almost entirely better than most of what we see today because he lets his killers shoot without hesitance. In most other action thrillers, we often get killers who ineptly miss their targets on top of being slow about it. So it comes with grief to say that the key defining scenes of the film are hindered by hesitance from opposing sides, which is unnecessary coming after the killer expeditiousness that has preceded up to that point. And why doesn’t Wright just show us the crossbow that is utilized at a crucial moment? Is it some kind of secret necessary to withhold from the audience?
With certainty, a sufficient amount of rapid fire thrills will be had. Those of you more adept at quoting film techniques should take note of the DePalma-esque tracking shots that happen more than just once. The underground subway with Bana squaring off against a band of agents reminded me of “Carlito’s Way” (1993) in particular (I was reminded as well by Chanwook Park’s elevator corridor fight in 2005’s “Oldboy”). Just as cool are the Tykwer-esque corkscrew shots that spiral upside-down with supersonic speed. With these skilled techniques, and with so much other great potential demonstrated throughout, you should wonder why Wright didn’t tighten the screws on his own film. This could have easily been such a strong genre contender. “Hanna,” as a thriller, already had us by our heart valves so why not go for cardiac arrest?
111 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SUSPENSE-THRILLER / ASSASSIN MOVIE / SUMMER NIGHT ACTION
Film Cousins: “The Manhattan Project” (1986); “Run Lola Run” (1999); “Salt” (2010); “Winter’s Bone” (2010).