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Hanna Review

By Beth McCabe

My Little Assassin


What would life be like if you lived it entirely in isolation? If the peaceful, snowy pine forests of Lapland were all you had ever called home and your days were spent training, mentally and physically, for combat? If the center of your world was your father: drill sergeant, teacher, sole companion? Your library a dated encyclopedia and an aging book of fairy tales? Your lessons those of hunting, endurance, survival? There is no loneliness because you've never known anything else: this is your life. It has always been this way. You are "Hanna." And everything is about to change.

Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones") is the titular sixteen-year-old who has only known the arctic cabin she and her ex-CIA agent father Erik (Eric Bana) share, miles from anywhere. She's been training all of her life for... something, and is getting restless. There's something more out there and she's ready for it. So when Erik takes out a transponder one day and tells her that turning it on will open the flood gates to everything else that's out there, it doesn't take her long to make the choice. Within hours, everything changes and the chase begins.

Up until this point, there isn't much insight into what's going on. The danger is clear, but not the why. Hanna's mission is to kill Marissa Wiegler (an uncomfortably icy Cate Blanchett) and meet her father at Hans Christian Andersen's house in Berlin. Erik flees; Hanna stays to kill and be captured. She winds up in holding, in an underground bunker complex in Morocco. She demands facetime with Marissa and is rewarded with a lookalike. Unworldly as she is, she takes the bait, kills the woman and escapes. And, again, everything changes.

The intensity of the chase gives way to distraction, as Hanna experiences other people for the first time in her young life. After the beautifully choreographed action sequences - set to a remarkable score of insistent club music and thumping base - things pull to a screeching halt. Ms Ronan's remarkable range is put through the paces here as Hanna alternates between ruthless killing machine and vulnerable girl. Both are enthralling.

It's a bit of a change for director Joe Wright, whose recent films include "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice". No costume drama here, nor sweeping British landscapes or grand country homes. Instead we have grit, concrete, a shipping yard: all hard edges and angles. The screenplay, by Seth Lochhead and David Farr, is neither precious with its premise nor its characters, letting the viewer get to know them slowly. Gradually motivations become clear, and the backstory is revealed.

There is a fairytale theme throughout the story, from Hanna's home in the snowy woodland to her quest to destroy the evil witch to the colorful characters she meets along the way. The Hans Christian Andersen house, a run down theme park, is a direct nod to the genre, and that the film's last battles happen on those grounds is no coincidence. The story ends where it began: a fight for survival marked by subtle reminders that not everyone lives this way. If there is such a thing as normal, it was never within Hanna's reach. As unfortunate as it is for Hanna, it makes an incredible movie for us.

What did you think?

Movie title Hanna
Release year 2011
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Saoirse Ronan fights for survival in this fairy tale-like actioner that is so much more than just action.
View all articles by Beth McCabe
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