Lisbeth Salander. Hit-Girl. And now Hanna – it appears that the tough young female heroine is starting to become more popular than ever. The latter is the eponymous lead character in Joe Wright’s latest film, a whip sharp, handsomely made globe-trotting action-thriller starring one of the most promising young stars around, Saoirse Ronan (pronounced “Sear-shah”).
Ronan plays the titular Hanna (yes the omission of the letter “h” is in purpose), a teenage assassin trained by her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) to “adapt or die” and “think on your feet… even when you’re sleeping.” She lives with her father in a remote forest just below the Arctic, far out of the reach of the woman on their tail, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). However, Hanna decides one day she is ready to go out into the world herself, allowing herself to be found and taken in my Wiegler and her agency as part of a mission set by her father.
What ensues is as exciting and engaging as you could hope from this type of a film. We are taken on a worldwide journey from the Arctic to Morocco to Germany (to name but a few) and you really feel like you’ve been all those miles with the characters. The film has a really all encompassing feel to it as the government search high and low for Hanna and her father.
Ronan has already proven her acting chops with her Oscar nominated supporting performance in Atonement, also directed by Wright, as well as in the underrated The Lovely Bones. But is she convincing as an all-out action star? Absolutely, and in fact more convicting than most of the much older, predominantly male action stars in Hollywood at the moment (not naming any names, of course). She conveys both the vulnerability (after all Hanna is still a 16 year old girl) and confidence needed to pull off the role. She’s the more realistic version of the cartoonishly violent Hit-Girl from last year’s Kick-Ass.
However, it’s not just Ronan who knocks it out of the park here as across the board the performances are great. From Blanchett as the determined and calculating Marissa Wiegler hot on Hanna’s tail to Bana as her father, even though he doesn’t have a ton of screen time (he does have one scene where he kicks all sorts of ass). But perhaps the standout performance of the supporting cast is Tom Hollander (who many will know as the guy who dropped the hilariously jaw-dropping line “Climb the mountain of conflict” in The Thick of It spin-off film In The Loop), who plays a relentless killer hired by Wiegler to track down Hanna. Hollander is clearly having a lot of fun hamming it up with his bleach-blonde hair, lemon-coloured tracksuits and thick German accent. A strangely creepy “villain” who almost steals the whole show.
A special mention must go to the music found in the film. The latest in the line of music artists to turn to scoring movies – after the likes of Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead (There Will Be Blood) and the French electro duo Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy) – is The Chemical Brothers and while it may sound a strange combination their pulsing music perfectly suits the gleefully frantic pace of Hanna’s narrative. It so easily could have backfired and been a distraction but luckily the music fits in completely.
If you thought all director Joe Wright made was dramas like The Soloist or romantic period pieces like Atonement and Pride & Prejudice then think again. Hanna is proof enough that he has what it takes to make one hell of an action/thriller, providing some of the best chase and hand-to-hand combat scenes of the last couple of years. But there’s also a lot of weight to be found here which makes Hanna more than just your average action movie. Exciting, peculiar, funny in places, emotional, dramatic – Hanna has something for just about every type of film fan. Impressive stuff indeed.