Bobcat Movie Review: Hanna
April 8, 2011
Who is Hanna? Well, that’s the question that drives the movie’s title character (Saoirse Ronan) to stare down the danger she’s been hiding from her whole life. Hanna is a 16-year-old question mark. She never knew her mother, and by the end of the movie she begins to question if she really knows her father Erik (Eric Bana in a performance that could launch him as a bona fide action star) or even herself. She has never listened to music, seen a television, ridden in a car or spoken a word to anyone but her fiercely protective papa.
Before long, we learn what Erik is protecting her from: CIA Agent Marissa Wiegler (a cool, calculating Cate Blanchett with a Texas accent). Marissa framed Erik for murder when Hanna was just an infant, and so he disappeared and began to home-school his daughter in an off-the-grid arctic refuge. Over the next 14 years she learns five foreign languages, how to fire bullets and arrows with lethal precision, hand-to-hand combat, and how to snap a human neck like a plastic spoon.
The father-daughter relationship in the movie’s opening scenes is fascinating. Erik is verbally and physically brutal with Hanna, yet he is also clearly loving and supportive. He doesn’t just want her to succeed; he knows her life depends on her success. Success, as Erik has taught Hanna from the time she was old enough to form words, means killing Marissa.
When Marissa learns Erik is alive, she dispatches about 100 special forces operatives to bring him in but is very hush-hush about why he is such a high-value target. Erik is gone when the soldiers arrive, but Hanna surrenders and asks to meet with Marissa. That meeting lights the fuse on a shocking action sequence where the extent of Hanna’s skills are revealed. When it comes to killing, this girl’s got game.
Ronan trained extensively to learn martial arts and improve her strength and agility, and the work pays off in every action scene. While Ronan is about as thin and pale as a saltine, she is absolutely convincing as an ass-kicking force of nature.
Bana is also a thrill to watch during several fight scenes. Joe Wright, who’s never directed anything resembling an action movie, wisely hired the stunt coordinator who choreographed some of the rock’em, sock’em fight sequences in “The Bourne Identity” trilogy. The audience at my Austin screening broke into applause after one scene where Erik wipes out four of Marissa’s henchmen in a German subway station. When the last goon goes down, you realize that the camera never blinked during the entire scene. No cuts. No edits. Just a solid minute of perfect action. That’s old school.
Speaking of goons, Marissa enlists the help of an old associate of hers named Isaacs (Tom Hollander), an unsettling fellow who deserves induction into the Creepy German Hall of Fame. In addition to being a remorseless nutjob, Isaacs has a thing for hermaphrodites, wears uber-short white tennis shorts, and he literally whistles a happy tune while stalking his prey. Isaacs is responsible for cringe-inducing collateral damage, and believe me there are plenty of good, innocent people who meet grisly fates because their lives just happen to intersect with this movie’s plot.
But at least Isaacs has a couple of excuses. 1) He’s a psychopath. 2) He’s following Marissa’s orders. Marissa, the brains of this operation, has no excuses and makes no excuses; her only focus is the mission. This is a villain who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty – we witness Marissa execute three defenseless people – but she’s too smart to get too close to trained killers like Erik and Hanna.
Creepy Germans. Great Actors. Greater Action. What more can a movie fan ask for? Did I mention the Chemical Brothers did the soundtrack and I put it on my iPod as soon as I got home from the theater?
So download the 19th song (“Container Park”) and crank it until your rear-view mirrors vibrate on your way to the multiplex. 2011 is still young, but “Hanna” is an early contender for one of the best movies of the year.