Film review by: Witney Seibold
The pleasures of Joe Wright’s killer teenager thriller lie in just how batshit crazy it is. You can tell that Wright (known for grown-up dramas like “Atonement” and “Pride & Prejudice”) was intent on telling a modern-day fairy tale, complete with a peaceful cabin in the woods, a wicked childless stepmother, a young girl losing her innocence, and a showdown amongst giant mushrooms and wicked wolves. What he ended up making was a thriller so wild, so oversaturated with color, packed with so much delightfully implausible violence, so noisy and so bizarre that one begins to smile in a joyous and thrilled incredulity. When the 16-year-old Hanna (a gamely feral Saoirse Ronan) begins kicking grown men in the face, and fashioning bows and arrows out of sticks and twigs, you smile. When you see where her story has taken us, you squeal in glee. What a fun, ridiculous film.
Hanna is living in the woods of Finland with her father Erik (Eric Bana). She has clearly been there since birth, and all she knows is what Erik has read to her out of an old encyclopedia. She has never heard music, or seen a car or a plane, and she can arrow down reindeer with the best off them. Erik seems to have her on a curious regimen of assassin training. To what end we will soon learn…
It turns out Erik has a past with a shadowy CIA-like organization, headed up by a ballbusting, shoulder-padded Cate Blanchett, whose character skirts dangerously close to fetishistic schoolmarm, right down to the loving, sexual closeups of her ugly spiked heels. Erik has a machine that alerts Blanchett to his location (for some reason), and he decides that it’s Hanna’s chance to enter the real world. Her baptism involves separating her from anyone she knows, insisting she kill many people, stick to a backstory, escape from the CIA compound where she’s taken, and hitchhiking across Europe with a loving hippie family (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) and brave a vaguely Sapphic relationship with their callow teenage daughter (Jessica Barden). Ronan is perfect in the role, as she seems overwhelmed by the new worlds she encounters, but is still possessed of a weird, doe-eyed innocence that is only offset by her occasional bouts of extreme violence. Well, no so extreme; the film is rated PG-13.
On her trail is a horrifying evil thug (Tom Hollander), who looks like an evil version of Thomas Lennon from “The State,” and is always seen in a creepy blue nylon tracksuit, and a pair of white patent-leather flats. The thug is a menacing character, but is vaguely hilarious.
“Hanna’s” score was composed and performed by the techno outfit The Chemical Brothers, and it’s their music that lends the film is delirious tone. Pounding, repetitive and possessed of a strangely music box quality, the music gives you the feeling that you’re in some sort of fantasy madhouse at times. That part of the film’s finale takes place in an abandoned amusement part, with a funny imp-like man playing Edvard Grieg for our heroin, while he lurches arhythmically through a fiberglass house of giant mushrooms, only serves to disorient you further.
Each of Wright’s film has featured a single, virtuosic shot that lasts about three minutes without an edit. In “Pride & Prejudice,” there was the party scene. In “Atonement,” there was the surreal passage through hundreds of bored soldiers constructing a carnival on the beach. In “Hanna,” we have Eric Bana leaving a train, walking down a long corridor into an underground passage, where he fights a group of bad guys, killing them all with a knife.
I’m not sure if Wright was entirely successful in making “Hanna” feel like a legitimate fairytale, but he has managed to make a hugely enjoyable, and solidly nutty thriller.