Joe Wright director of Pride and Prejudice and Atonement does a complete U-Turn with this adventurous fairy tale/thriller, where he throws many different things at the screen at different times, and has a blast filming many different locations around the world taking in the sights and smells, in a film of many visual flavours.
The story follows Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) a teenager who has been trained from a very young age to be an assassin by her father Erik (Eric Bana). At the start of the film we see Hanna catching a wild animal using a spear, so her and Erik can eat; we then see a number of training routines including Ninja sessions. As things progress Hanna is told that when she is ready to go out into the world alone she can flick a switch which will alert the CIA of their whereabouts. Erik tells her that she must battle for her life against a CIA agent called Marissa (Cate Blanchett). The pair agree to meet up in Berlin, so Hanna sets off on a globetrotting mission, taking in many adventures, learning new things about teenage life, as well as discovering more about the mystery of her father’s past along the way.
This was a slow starter for me, the scenes with father and daughter and the training felt very po-faced at times. Also the film does jump about a bit in tone in the first half an hour, where one minute you will get a sensitive fairy tale scene playing out, the next we get an high octane, pop video action set piece. Once again you can tell the filmmaker is a having a blast with soaring camera techniques, pumping trance noises and flashy images, even Hanna running turns into an event in itself.
Once things settle down, and it becomes a more focused character driven thriller I for one had more fun and engaged with the characters. There are some lovely moments involving Hanna and an oddball family she starts travelling around with, including a very sharp exchange when the mother of the family asks Hanna how her mother died, and she replies “Three Bullets” the dry delivery of the line makes the moment even more inspired.
Of course it is up to Ronan to hold the film together and once again she delivers, showing just why she is maybe the most talented teenager working in England and Hollywood. With an ice cold expression, yet great energy and vulnerability all of her own, it is a beautifully paced performance which delivers laughs, thrills and emotion. There are also strong supporting roles for Tom Hollander as the camp eighties reject who is given the task of tracking down Hanna, he adds the menace which for me was lacking from Blanchett’s Marissa, as well as Olivia Williams wide eyed hippy mother, and another star in the making in Jessica Barden (who was one of the only plus points from last year’s disastrous Tamara Drewe) she displays sharp comic timing as Hanna’s adopted best friend.
So a sharp and exciting adventure, with stylish set pieces, and a great eye for locations, some funny and ripe characters, and most importantly, a girl, ahead of her years brilliantly telling the story. Yes there are flaws, but I would say the closest thing to a perfect Joe Wright film yet, and hopefully the project that will get Ronan over to a wider audience.
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
WRITERS: SETH LOCHHEAD, DAVID FARR
STARRING: SAOIRSE RONAN, ERIC BANA, CATE BLANCHETT
RUNTIME: 111 MIN
COUNTRY: USA, UK, GERMANY