Published Apr 07, 2011When Hanna opens, the titular, 16-year-old trained assassin is tracking a deer buck through the expansive snowy wilderness in northern Scandinavia, eventually wounding it with a homemade arrow. Approaching the dying animal, she emotionlessly remarks, "I just missed your heart," coolly finishing the job.
After we learn about Hanna's (Saoirse Ronan) upbringing ― locked away from the world by her father, Erik (Eric Bana), being trained to fight, kill and adapt to various situations, versed in multilingualism and with a rehearsed, made up, "normal" background ― she makes her whereabouts known to U.S. government operative Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who has seemingly been hunting the father-daughter duo for over a decade. Obviously, this leaking of whereabouts and re-emergence into society are intentional, but the motivations and rationale partially remain a secret to the audience and Marissa alike.
Up until this point, Joe Wright's (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) departure from form has some stylization, mostly acting as a well-shot, functional narrative with a slight tendency to find an unlikely perspective for each scene. But as soon as Hanna is captured by U.S. military officials, and subsequently escapes, the stylistic exactitude, insanely propulsive direction, alienating and absorbing Chemical Brothers score, and highly storyboarded aesthetic set the stage for an unpredictable, wholeheartedly engaging chase thriller.
Although, even this isn't a certainty, since this specific, muscular camerawork is then juxtaposed with a warm, handheld emotional style of direction in the flashback sequence that follows, suggesting intended viewership manipulation. It's no surprise, since much like Wright's far less successful The Soloist, we are asked to question social norms and notions of sanity with every compounding and tonally varied sequence that unfolds.
From Blanchett's portrayal of a seemingly perfect, composed agent, frayed only when observed with close scrutiny, obsessively cleaning and scrubbing her teeth until her gums bleed, to Tom Hollander's chilling, lip-gloss wearing German assassin, each player in this extended European chase is intentionally disturbing and borderline certifiable, and not in a fun, accessible, idiosyncratic way. Even Hanna is essentially an empty vessel, acting politely towards strangers, but having a cold focus in action not entirely dissimilar to Robert Patrick's T-1000 in Terminator 2.
Collectively, this all makes for a unique, unforgettable cinematic experience, playing with expectation and audience complacency while offering constant peril and action to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. It's gorgeous to look at, genuinely unsettling and adrenaline boosting while delivering A-game performances and an extremely unique musical score.
While intentionally messy, yet exact, in its constantly shifting tone and focus, Hanna is nothing short of compelling and intriguing on almost every level. (Alliance)