‘Hanna’ a no-holds-barred coming-of-age story
Reminiscent of “Kick-ass,” where a 13-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz ruthlessly shot, slashed and eviscerated an entire extras cast while spewing expletives rapid-fire style, “Hanna,” starring the young, alabaster-skinned Saoirse Ronan, plunges us into a violent, unpredictable world where CIA conspiracy theories, maniacal henchmen and gun-wielding teenagers run amok in a maelstrom of glorious violence. Considering the first lines of the film are “I just missed your heart,” followed by a deafening gunshot, it’s near impossible not to become enraptured in this engaging fairytale world.
“Hanna,” directed by the hit-and-miss Joe Wright (“The Atonement,” “Pride & Prejudice”), starts off in the cold, desolate wilderness of northern Finland. There, we’re introduce to the deceptively dangerous Hanna (portrayed by the talented Ronan, “The Lovely Bones”) and her rugged, animal skin-draped father, Erik (Eric Bana, “Hulk”). Blanketed by the ever-present snow, Erik has been training Hanna in hand-to-hand combat, firearms and every other form of attack possible, along with memorization and language skills, for as long as she can remember. It’s a cruel life, but one that seems to have a purpose when Hanna declares she’s ready to move on to the next stage of this demented sequence. It only gets odder as Hanna and Erik begin their separate journeys. In a patchwork of action-movie themes — including covert intelligence operations and martial arts sequences — mashed with the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, the film’s writers, Seth Lochhead and David Farr, pit Hanna against the strikingly cruel Marissa Wiegler (played by the menacing Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”), her for-hire goons and the world itself as she tries to unravel the secrets of her life. Along the way, the previously sequestered Hanna, in wide-eyed fascination, is shown the ways of the world, including making her first friend and visiting foreign countries on her own.
Bringing far more skill to this film than to he did to “Atonement,” director Wright has shown he can learn from his mistakes. While he still has a penchant for the shaky camera, it adds dramatic effect here whereas it was just annoying before. In the first scene, for instance, Wright used dynamic shot composition with fluid movements to showcase the complex relationship between Hanna and her father; however, he deftly switched gears when chases ensued (and there were plenty). But it wasn’t just Wright who made this film come to life: The soundtrack, exclusively by The Chemical Brothers, was truly astounding. Perfectly balancing between its well-known bass-thumping tunes and some more airy melodies, the group made the movie that much more enjoyable. And considering the extent to which sound was utilized in this film — from eerily silent in the wilderness to the overwhelming noise generated in the city — that’s saying multitudes.
On top of the behind-the-scene direction, several gifted actors graced the screen in this film. Ronan is simply arresting as the star of this modern-day fairytale. As you watch her glide across the screen in graceful sweeps, you just can’t help but think that this lanky teenager could snap your neck with ease if she so chose. Blanchett, in her evil queen/Big Bad Wolf mix of a CIA agent with some serious OCD issues, is an amazing villian, adding doses of depravity you would only expect in a Quentin Tarantino film. And Bana, while playing a smaller role (honestly, though, the story is not about him), is solid as the father figure.
In the end, while “Hanna” is a coked-up blend of action movies and fairytales, it’s an absolute knock-out, leaving you jaw-dropped and white-knuckled in equal measures. So get ready for two hours of pulse-racing, fist-flying, gun-slinging action, because it’s definitely worth the price of admission.
Four stars out of five.