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Review: Hanna (2011)

Hanna (2011)

Directed by: Joe Wright

Premise: A seventeen year old girl (Saoirse Ronan) raised in the forest by a former CIA operative, enters the world and engages in a cat and mouse game with intelligence agents intent on capturing her. 

What Works: Hanna is an exceptional action film. It delivers as an action picture with chases and shootouts typical of the genre, especially recent entries like The Bourne Identity and Casino Royale. The sequences are shot and edited very tightly and the surging electronic soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers gives these scenes added energy. But Hanna is exceptional because of the storytelling throughout the middle of the film, which plays as a travelogue and a coming of age story. As Hanna travels across Europe, she comes into contract with the amenities of civilization for the first time and actress Saoirse Ronan does a great job with the role. She plays Hanna a bit like a wild animal; this is The Call of the Wild in reverse as she moves from the feral to the domestic and Ronan and the filmmakers find ways of conveying the sensory overload that that has become a normal part of contemporary life. Hanna’s travel through the various cultures and countries is in part a scathing criticism of contemporary life and specifically Western styles of parenting. This is brought to light very vividly as Hanna is taken in by a vacationing British family and befriends the teenage daughter played by Jessica Barden. Barden’s character is obnoxious, self absorbed, and oblivious to the world around her and in that way she is the polar opposite of Ronan’s Hanna, who notices everything and tries to understand and appreciate it. The friendship between them should derail the film but it does quite the opposite. Hanna is so successful at making its main character such an engaging and sympathetic person that it is heartwarming to see her make a friend, even if that friend is a dimwitted cretin. And when her friend finds out the truth about Hanna’s skills and background, the film manages the impressive task of delivering heartbreak in the middle of a furious action scene. The remainder of the film effectively ramps up the action and the dramatic tension as the audience gradually discovers why the CIA is after this girl and Hanna’s own discoveries about her background force her to a new understanding about herself.

What Doesn’t: Viewers should be aware that Hanna is not a typical action film, even in the spy or assassin genres. Although its style is comparable the Jason Bourne films, this is a film that prefers character over action, and film goers expecting something like a shoot-‘em-up picture such as Crank or The Expendables may be disappointed.

Bottom Line: Hanna is a very good picture. It satisfies the requisites of the action genre but the film is much more than that. Hanna is reminiscent of films like First Blood or The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Dark Knight as an excellent example of its genre while also engaging in first rate storytelling, smart filmmaking, and astute social criticism.  

Episode: #335 (April 17, 2011)