Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Tom Hollander.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 111 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Action violence and infrequent coarse language

A very strong cast brings this very grim drama to life. It is a story of espionage from Cold War times, a story of violence and deception, a story of scientific experiments for the good of society and its protection (a variation on the themes of Never Let Me Go), a story of revenge and desperation.

That might not sound a likely scenario for director, Joe Wright, although many of those themes underlay his fine version of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. His first feature was Pride and Prejudice. His previous film was The Soloist with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. The director obviously relishes the opportunity to make an action feature with thoughtful drama.

This is clear from the opening in Finland where the young Hanna is out hunting with her father. She is a deadly shot, is being taught survival techniques and complete self-reliance in a remote environment with few comforts (except some books and some fairy tales which she treasures, especially Grimm stories which will be taken up when she ends her quest in Berlin). The audience has little time to wonder who Hanna is and why she and her father are living as primitively as they do. The house is attacked by heavily armed troopers. Thus begins a cat and mouse chase as Hanna is captured, her father escapes and Hanna is submitted to tests in an underground bunker facility and laboratory.

Hanna is played with complete conviction by Saoirse Ronan who came to prominence in Atonement and featured in Death Defying Acts, The Lovely Bones and The Way Back. Only in her mid-teens, she is an actress of extraordinary presence. She has to be because for most of the film she is on the run, putting her survival skills to extraordinary lengths, traversing Morocco, Spain and into Germany to meet her father again. She is pursued by a relentlessly ruthless American spy chief and her well-trained agents, including a seemingly effete but cruel Tom Hollander.

Interesting that the producers of Hanna have called on two Australian leads for their film. The father is played by Eric Bana who has to put his survival skills to the test as well, especially a violent confrontation in the Berlin Underground. And the heartless espionage chief is played by Cate Blanchett at her most menacing and cold.

There are some relaxing moments along the way, especially as Hanna makes friends with a Moroccan apartment block owner and with a travelling family, the parents (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) amusing in their application of permissive parenting of their two children. In fact, the two children are crucial to the plot in bringing the pursuit to a head.

The film keeps up its rapid pace, is intriguing in its portrayal of its three central characters and the mystery of their relationship, and inserts many action sequences that match any espionage adventure.

In taking us into a murky world of agents, double agents, the complexity of truth and lies, as well as the impersonal schemes created, allegedly for national security but with sometimes devastating personal effects on the subjects, Hanna gives its audience a lot to reflect on as well.

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