This is very much the girl who played with firearms. From the outset we are shown that The Karate Kid this isn’t, with Hanna introduced as a longbow wielding moppet who might still be learning her craft, but is someone very special (ops) indeed.
I’d seen Angelina Jolie do her secret agent stuff in Salt, which I felt was more than a bit lacklustre and whilst Hanna had her moments, great shining moments of brilliance, it didn’t have that zip along feel like say The Long Kiss Goodnight. In the female espionage stakes it’s perhaps fairest to compare Hanna to La Femme Nikita and Leon (Hanna and her sisters perhaps?), both of which have a very European feel about them, something which Hanna echoes in its locations, several actors and it being helmed by a British Director.
Best described as a coming of age drama slash fish out of water thriller it’s an effective if not typical thriller that I willed and wanted to stay in high gear for more than a couple of minutes at a time but it would always seem to take its feet off of the accelerator as soon as it had floored it. I don’t mean it has to be wall to wall action and ‘Bayhem’ but it did seem to stutter and feel rather uneven in places.
When it roars it really shines, such as a bravo steadicam shot that follows Eric Bana being stalked by agents through a subway, who he then subsequently fights, all in one glorious single shot, which really ramps it up but is practically over as soon as it begins. And another standout moment is a glorious set piece in a container yard that again peaks your interest but is over as soon as it has begun.
In many ways it felt like it was harking back to 70s thrillers, like say Marathon Man, pacing wise with facts slowly revealed throughout the film and events slowly occurring. That’s certainly not a negative as I love Marathon Man, but I think the complaint is more to do with the fact it was marketed as a high-octane junior version of Taken. It’s quite simply a good old fashioned revenge film.
Cast wise, Saoirse Ronan is amazing as the 16 year old Hanna and does nothing but convince as first and foremost a girl who has lost her innocence, especially in some of the scenes with the family, and equally impressed as a steely assassin. Her scenes with Eric Bana all bristle with electricity. Cate Blanchett is a good villain, far better than she was in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but I couldn’t help but see her as Jane Horrocks from those supermarket ads from a couple of years back.
I really wanted to love Hanna, I really did, but unfortunately I could only like it. The story is certainly intriguing and you really want to stick with it and see it through to its conclusion and it’s certainly something fresh in a (another) year of sequels and tepid remakes but it still stops and starts too much for my liking. Without giving too much away it has a great bookending and any film with a death by biro has to be worth a look, right? The tag line for the film, and also a line from the film, was adapt or die, and whilst it far from dies it isn’t fully adapted, ironically perhaps like most normal 16 year old teenagers, it’s a little bit awkward.