Hanna (starring Saoirse Ronan)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis…Saoirse Ronan? Although a pale, 16 year-old girl may not be your idea of an action star, Ms. Ronan was impressive as the super-trained action hero Hanna. Following in the footsteps of last year’s KICK-ASS, in which a 13 year-old Chloe Moretz busted heads as the crime fighter Hit-girl, Hanna delivers her punches efficiently and more importantly, she makes them believable. Couple the handful of great action scenes with the efficient and deliberate direction from Joe Wright and we have a well-crafted story of a unique youngster trying to find her place in the world.
By the time we meet Hanna, she is living in “the forest” with her father (Eric Bana) and has presumably spent her entire life learning how to be the perfect weapon. She speaks multiple languages, can hunt any animal and can recite basic facts like a talking encyclopedia. We learn that the purpose of their seclusion and her rigorous training was to prepare her to deal with Marissa (Cate Blanchett), a CIA agent that is trying to kill her and Eric. The highlight of the film is early on, when the CIA captures Hanna and then we see her fight her way out of their facility. I was amazed at the intensity and maturity Saoirse Ronan displayed while carrying out the vengeful killing of various CIA agents. The audience truly believed this girl was able to perform the acts effortlessly and that believability came from the great performance of Ronan.
Where the film sputtered was when Hanna caught up with a family traveling through Morocco and Spain. We spent a lot of time with them, which was intended to set up Hanna’s development as a person rather than a human weapon, but it damaged the pacing of the film and slowed things down. It was important to show Hanna making a friend and experiencing a life outside of “the forest”, but Joe Wright would have benefited from more liberal editing. I also wasn’t fully buying the evil from Marissa, who came off comic book-y at times. Blanchett should have played it more straight-forward and cool rather than choosing to over-act at times. Someone needed to remind her that this is a Joe Wright film, not a James Bond movie form the 80’s.
Despite a bit of a lull in the middle and the lack of a convincing villain, HANNA is a wonderful character study about a girl trying to come to terms with who and what she is. I’ve enjoyed all of Wright’s films and he stretched himself here by tackling action and drama by using a unique subject. Given the fact we were watching a young girl do action stunts usually reserved for male adults, he did well by keeping it grounded in reality and never losing the audience with a suspension of disbelief. That, and the amazing performance from Saoirse Ronan make HANNA an excellent film.