It’s a rare action movie that can surprise and impress me these days. I feel like the action genre is largely warmed-over these days; nothing new since DIE HARD. Then I saw HANNA, a film that largely succeeds at being novel, beautiful, bizarre, moving and action-packed. It’s a pretty great movie.
The titular character, played by Saorsie Ronan (the little girl from ATONEMENT), is a sixteen year old girl who’s been raised in the backwoods of Finland by her ex-CIA daddy (Eric Bana, with a ridiculous accent but a lot of kick-ass). Hanna is sweet and charming, her knowledge of the world gleaned from encyclopedias and from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Oh, and she’s also a deadly assassin, trained by her father to kill and show no mercy, especially towards their ultimate nemesis, Marissa Viegler of the CIA (played with hammy relish by Cate Blanchett). The opening sequences of the film are stark and gorgeous, a quiet backdrop for the blood-spattered romp across Europe that is to come. Director Joe Wright, who also put Ronan as the lead in ATONEMENT, knows how to use his actors effectively, giving Ronan, Bana and Blanchett a chance to bring out character depth despite an action and visuals-heavy film.
Hanna decides to lure out Marissa and deal vengeance for the death of her mother. Marissa and her eurotrash mercenaries hunt her down and pursue her from Morocco to Germany, leaving a death toll in each locale. Yes, the film gets bogged down in stereotypes (the lead German assassin with his bleach-blond hair, sexual deviance and penchant for track suits), and the ‘real world’ Hanna plunges into seems less authentic and believable than her Finnish hinterlands. But it’s enormous fun and the film is full of energy akin to RUN LOLA RUN or THE PROFESSIONAL. Hanna finds her next target, the Chemical Brothers soundtrack kicks in, and we’re off to the races.
The final payoff isn’t nearly as promising as HANNA’s beginning. Perhaps that is a matter of unrealistic expectations on our part. Wright appears to have lost some steam by the time we make it to our final showdown, and admittedly it was a little cliche at that point. But regardless, when the movie hits its stride, HANNA is highly kinetic, exciting and enjoyable. That’s as much as we can ask these days.