A little too imaginative for its own good.

Released in 2011, certified UK*12A. Reviewed on 17 Aug 2011 by Scott Morris
Hanna image

At the very least, director Joe Wright can't be accused of getting stuck in a thematic rut. After the stoic dramas of Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and The Soloist, he now directs this action-laden, high concept revenge thriller. Overall, he's pulled off this genre switcharoo better than could perhaps be expected, although Hanna is a long way from perfect.

The titular 16 year old Hanna Heller (The Lovely Bones' Saoirse Ronan) lives a quiet life in the woods of Finland with her father Erik (Eric Bana). Well, quiet apart from all of the training she's receiving to become a super-assassin. But y'know, quiet, other than the hand to hand combat and stuff. Plainly she's being shaped as a weapon, and it turns out the target is the C.I.A's Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), whom Wikipedia informs me is corrupt, although I'd argue she was just in charge of an ethically wonky program, but to get into any details would head firmly into spoiler territory.

Structurally, Hanna isn't far off the Bourne Identity genotype, what with the highly trained operative trying to uncover mysterious, hidden details about their past and suchlike. In fact, come to think of it, it's nigh-on identical. The largest differentiator between them is the style of the piece. It used to be said of films that they had been made "for the MTV generation", and arguably the Bourne franchise is a decent example of that hyper-kinetic shakycam, fast-paced, fast-cut style.

Hanna appears, then, to have been made for a generation of people weaned on psychotropic drugs. It's not often I wish a film had rained itself in and not gone to such extremes, but I can't escape the feeling that Hanna pushes the envelope so hard that it pokes holes in it, and the film starts dribbling out the hole and making small, messy puddles on the floor that someone's going to have to clean up later.

It goes too far. The plot by itself, which I don't feel we can discuss in depth without ruining it (although arguably it's relatively obvious how this is going to play out), is 'high concept', and by which I mean 'silly', enough by itself, but it's embellished at every turn with additional bizarities that add up to make the film too alienatingly daft to really get into. Witness Tom Hollander's oddball German hit-man and his skinhead cronies, and that dude in the amusement park, and all the other flourishes that push it over the line from 'quirky' to 'willfully obscure'. It feels like a rather desperate attention grab to fast track it into 'cult favourite' territory, and goes from being 'individual' to 'crass commercialism'.

Hanna is a film that I really want to like a lot more than I can actually justify, and there are certainly some strong elements to the piece. Almost universally wonky accents aside, it's well acted, and the characters are sympathetic and substantially more believable than I'd expect given the nature of the plot. It's well paced, punchy, and the action is well handled by Joe Wright and his team. The Chemical Brothers provide a pounding soundtrack that fits the film exceptionally well.

Certainly, Hanna takes risks, and on a purely ideological level I support that fully. We need all of it we can get, in this risk-averse cinematic landscape. Sadly Hanna, ultimately, just doesn't work. It's not an unenjoyable film to watch, and it's a long way from boring, but it's just a little too oddball to be fully embraced. Interesting, but I can't recommend it.

Joe Wright
Cast list:
Saoirse Ronan (Hanna Heller)
Cate Blanchett (Marissa Wiegler)
Eric Bana (Erik Heller)
Tom Hollander (Isaacs)