Hanna - A Natural Born Thriller
When it comes to avenging dead mothers,
Hanna’s up there with Batman and others,
But is she hunted or hunting?
In amidst all that running,
To a score by The Chemical Brothers.
Hanna opens with the main character (Saoirse Ronan) shooting a deer with a bow and arrow, standing over the wounded animal explaining, “I just missed your heart”, before shooting it in the head. This kind of stone-cold reaction to death may be expected from a military-trained soldier, but coming from a young girl no older than 16, it becomes a slightly disturbing and overly intriguing character introduction.
The training montage that follows puts Rocky IV to shame, as Hanna’s father (Eric Bana) pushes her both physically and mentally to become the ultimate weapon. But just what exactly is all this preparation for? Well that’s where the appeal of Hanna lies.
Without knowing much about the film prior to watching, I would never have picked Joe Wright as the director. This is a completely new genre for Wright, who is best known for period drama (Atonement and Pride & Prejudice) or chasing Oscars with sappy underdog stories (The Soloist).
Here, he has applied some interesting tricks to adapt to the physical nature of the film. Action sequences come thick and fast, using the same filming styles and editing techniques that made Bourne Ultimatum so adrenaline-pumping.
The shaky hand-held camera, scattered lighting and choppy frame cuts create genuine anxiety, which works effectively until the focus shifts from action to emotion. Midway through, Hanna becomes a character study; as we witness her struggle to adjust to the real world. While scenes with the English caravanning family (led by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ Jason Flemyng) are relevant to her arc, they also lose all the momentum and excitement that was built earlier in the film.
Saoirse Ronan (who Wright also cast in Atonement) is incredible, shifting effortlessly from stone-cold killer to innocent teenage girl. Having proved her acting skills against some big names already, I’m looking forward to seeing her career develop.
Bana must have hit the gym for his role, showing off a pretty good rig for a man in his 40s and coordinating some believable fight sequences. But unfortunately, his performance is weakened by his horrible German accent – although it’s a vast improvement on his previous attempts at the American tongue.
Cate Blanchett is always solid, but her character is not really given the screen-time needed to justify her motives. While the chase for Hanna and her father becomes an obsession from the moment she hears of their existence, it’s never really explained why she started it all or what happened to the CIA program they were involved in.
Much like Run Lola Run, the intense music makes the chase sequences the most exciting parts of the film. The Chemical Brothers’ soundtrack is an attribute to the electro pioneers, but the intensity of their music sometimes over-hypes scenes that didn’t really need it.
Hanna is like the origin story for characters like Jason Bourne or James Bond, showing the kind of childhood that produces these natural-born killers. While the action is impressive, especially for such a delicate character, the suspense and excitement is lost before the story culminates. Enjoyable, but could have been exceptional.
Hanna opens in selected cinemas Thursday 28 July 2011.