Hanna’s life seems fairly simple. She (Saoirse Ronan) wakes up, does schoolwork, her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) reading to her from a set of antiquated encyclopedias), hunts, trains in marksmanship and advanced hand-to-hand combat, then relaxes with Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Isolated in the Arctic Circle, Hanna and her father live off the grid, training hard for they day Hanna will leave. She insists she is ready, that the time has come; finally he agrees, letting her decide to flip the switch on a transponder that will call in the cavalry. They separate and agree to meet after repeating a mantra: Hanna’s false back story and their intricate plan of revenge for the murder of Hanna’s mother.
Following this, Hanna allows herself to be taken by the U.S. government—all part of the plan—where she seeks out Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett). Hanna escapes after Weigler outsmarts her, with Weigler and a set of ruthless henchmen chasing her across Europe. Hanna gets a taste of real life, overwhelming at times, when she takes up with a British family camping their way through Morocco and Spain. She makes a friend, learns a bit of what it means to be a person, and finds out that, despite all her training and book learning, the world is a scary place.
The cinematography throughout this film is stunning, while the music is jarring—at times off-putting, but that’s the point, I think. Hanna’s life with her father was serene and picturesque, albeit unusual. Then, the moment the outside world intrudes, the cinematography and setting grows a bit frenetic and trippy, and the soundtrack blares. A few extended fight scenes punctuate the film, and they are rather exquisite as well.
Saoirse Ronan seems to have really thrown herself into the physical work, managing to seem graceful while managing Bourne-like choreography. I first saw Ronan in Atonement (nominated for Best Supporting Actress, which she should have won—also directed by Joe Wright), in which she really excelled. I’ve since seen her in a few other things, and in each case she seems to really shine beyond the film; I think she’ll really prove to be one of the better actresses in the future. While I don’t think Bana was as strong as Ronan or Blanchett (who is just insidious), his scenes are intense and well-executed. One, in particular, is a long tracking shot, following him from a train, through a station, and into an underground parking structure, followed by a great brawl.
A motif of eyes permeates the film, accentuating the feeling of someone watching every move of Hanna and her father. This starts off slowly, with Hanna surrounded by cameras, observed by Marissa, then escalates with many close-ups of eyes throughout, Heller walks by a series of walls spotted with graffiti eyes and a spray painted scrawl proclaiming, “One Nation Under CCTV.” Further, Hanna’s obsession with Grimm’s fairy tales seems to be enacted, as she moves from one set of horrible circumstances to another, ending up in the Grimm house—a terrifyingly trippy place—and through a dilapidated amusement park. This seems to reflect the way Hanna sees the world: it is a more than slightly frightening, topsy-turvy place, yet a place of wonder which she just wants to explore once she completes her mission.
I really enjoyed this film, though some people may find the trippy nature of some of the scenes and the soundtrack to be a little off-putting, I felt it really contributed to overall feel of the film. While the plot was not overly intricate, it was a simple revenge story done very well, with the unique aspect of a 16-year-old girl as a master assassin.
4.5 out of 5 stars