While 2005’s adaptation of Pride & Prejudice and 2007’s Atonement made Joe Wright one of the hottest rising British directors. He went to America in 2008 to helm The Soloist with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. The film was delayed and pushed to an early 2009 release. Disappointing box office and lukewarm reviews hurt the film as it was also Wright’s most expensive at $60 million only drawing half of its budget through its worldwide box office gross. After some time off, Wright returns to Europe as he also decides to take on a different genre for a cat-and-mouse revenge thriller simply called Hanna.
Directed by Joe Wright with a story by Seth Lochhead and screenplay by Lochhead and David Farr. Hanna tells the story of a young girl who lives alone in the forest with her father as he trains her to be an assassin. When he takes a leave to Berlin, she is finally captured by the CIA where a corrupt agent goes after her following an escape. A change of pace from Wright’s previous period-drama films, Wright reunites with his Atonement co-star Saoirse Ronan who plays the title character as they go for a different kind of action film. Also starring Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, and Wright regular Tom Hollander. Hanna is a thrilling yet exciting action-suspense film from Joe Wright and company.
Living alone in a forest, Hanna has been taught by her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) to kill and fight for her own survival. Erik also teaches his 16-year old daughter different languages though she is still curious about who she is and the world outside as she has no idea about what music is and such rather in their definitions. On a particular day, Erik brings a transmitter as it would reveal their location to the woman who killed Hanna’s mother (Vicky Krieps) named Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). Hanna turns on the transmitter while Erik leaves to go to Berlin as he hopes to meet her later.
Hanna is eventually captured by Wiegler’s associates as she is interrogated by a decoy (Michelle Dockery). Instead, Hanna deposes the decoy and other soldiers as she escapes the high-tech prison as she learns she is in Morocco after being found by a young girl named Sophie (Jessica Barden) who is traveling with her family. Hanna eventually catches up with Sophie and her family as she hides in their van as she finds herself introduced to a world that is very different from what she knows. Marissa meanwhile, goes on the hunt for Erik Heller as she also hires a mercenary named Issacs (Tom Hollander) to find Hanna.
With Hanna traveling with Sophie, her little brother Miles (Aldo Maland), and their parents (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams). Hanna finds herself drawn to them as she finds her first real friend in Sophie but wondering about the mysterious presence of Issacs. With Hanna wanting to go to Berlin as Sophie’s parents help her, Hanna sees Issacs as she tries to get them away from Sophie and her family. After evading Issacs, she travels to Berlin to find her father as the address that Erik has given her leads her to a home owned by a man named Mr. Grimm. While Hanna wonders about her own identity based on a DNA sheet that she took from the prison, she learns who she is as she confronts her father and eventually, Marissa.
The film is about this young girl who for all of her life has been trained to be an assassin of sorts while living with her father somewhere in the middle of a forest. She’s trained to become a super-soldier while every word she’s taught is only by its actual definition. The only idea of love that she has is in a picture of her mother and a book of fairy tales by the Grimm Brothers. Upon her capture and escape, Hanna is introduced to the real world where it’s different from everything she’s known. When she meets Sophie and her family, she gets a look of what family life is along with what music is and what it’s like to kiss someone.
There is something very innocent in a girl like Hanna who is just curious about this new world she’s in and when she’s confronted by people who want to get rid of her. She finds a reason to protect this new family she finds herself being accustomed to and learns to care for them. Even as she tries to find something about herself while wondering why this woman named Marissa is going after her and her father.
Eventually, there is a reason why Marissa is going after Hanna and Erik as she is a woman that is a corrupt CIA agent has a very sick demeanor. From the way she brushes her teeth to the shoes she wants to wear as she is kind of a traditional fairy tale villain. Then there’s Erik Heller who is a guy that is just wanting to protect Hanna from Marissa and her henchmen. Yet, he is also someone carrying a secret about Hanna and who she is.
Screenwriters David Farr and Seth Lochhead do a great job with character study on Hanna and Erik though the character of Marissa isn’t as developed. Yet, there isn’t a need since she is a slimy villain. Even as they use flashback for what Marissa did the night Hanna’s mother died. The screenplay definitely does an excellent job in mixing character study, action, drama, and also comedy. Even as it features moments that is very natural with the humor being strange but natural to who Hanna is.
Joe Wright’s direction is definitely marvelous as he definitely goes for a stylistic approach to the action where he does go into convention but also play along with it. Notably a great tracking shot that follows Erik from a bus to a subway where he’s followed and surrounded by men into a fight scene that is all in one take. Even as he has the action play to rhythms and such while creating great compositions to the confrontation scenes and action sequences. For the rest of the film including for the dramatic scenes in Morocco and Spain, it’s straightforward but also engaging since it’s shown from Hanna’s perspective.
Even as she is hiding in the van where she watches Sophie and her family singing David Bowie’s Kooks from Hunky Dory. There’s also some great humor to the film as includes a scene where Hanna and Sophie are hanging around with boys as a boy is trying to get closer to Hanna hoping to kiss her. It’s a very simple, comedic approach that recalls the era of silent films it plays off natural to the awkwardness of it. While all of the action stuff that happens mixed in with the more character-driven study does make the film a bit uneven. Still, Joe Wright does step up his game in terms of presentation and composition as he creates what is definitely a fun action-thriller.
Cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler does a superb job with the film‘s photography from the snowy scenes in Finland to the varied locations in Morocco, Spain, and Berlin. Kuchler’s photography definitely captures a vibrancy to each location along with interiors including a scene of Hanna in her hotel room to dark lights of the Spanish docking bay where she’s being chased by Issacs and his men. Kuchler’s work is definitely the film’s big technical highlight.
Editor Paul Tothill does an excellent job with the film’s editing from the kinetic rhythm of the action scenes while maintaining a leisured pace for the more dramatic moments. Tothill’s cutting is straightforward while doesn’t lag in its pacing while continuing to keep up with the suspenseful tone of the film.
Production designer Sarah Greenwood, along with set decorator Katie Spencer and art director Niall Moroney, does a wonderful job with the set designs that includes the cabin home that Erik and Hanna lives to the slick world that Marissa lives in. Even as the real highlight of the art direction is Mr. Grimm’s home that is filled with lights and such as it’s definitely plays up to Hanna’s childlike fascination. Costume designer Lucie Bates does a very good job with the costumes from the rugged clothes that Erik and Hanna wear early to the slick, business-like suits that Marissa wears. Even to the bohemian-like clothes that Sophie’s parents wear as the costumes play up to Hanna’s growing curiosity with the world.
Sound designers Craig Berkey and Christopher Scarabosio do a phenomenal job with the sound work from the sparse world of the cold forest to the chaos in the cities and places that Hanna encounters. Particularly with the technology that Marissa surrounds herself with to communicate with other officials along with the intimacy in her world which is very cold.
The film’s score by the Chemical Brothers is a hypnotic yet frenetic score with its array of electronic textures and intense beats. Featuring some great themes that plays up to Hanna’s innocence as well as Marissa’s demeanor, the Chemical Brothers’ score is definitely a real highlight of the film. Even as the soundtrack includes pieces of flamenco, Eastern music, and pop music including David Bowie’s Kooks.
The casting by Jina Jay is amazing for its array of memorable appearances from actors (whose names can’t be found) for roles such as Hanna’s grandmother and the whimsical Mr. Grimm. Other notable small roles include John MacMillan as Marissa’s colleague Lewis, Michelle Dockery as the fake Marissa, Mohamed Majd as a hotel owner in Morocco, and Vicky Krieps in flashback scenes as Hanna’s mother. Aldo Maland is very good as Sophie’s little brother Miles while Jason Flemyng is also good as Sophie’s dad. Olivia Williams is excellent as Sophie’s mother who helps Hanna while being a bit of the lost maternal figure that Hanna never had.
Jessica Barden is superb as Sophie, a teenage girl who befriends Hanna as she helps introduce to a new world while being a bit snotty towards her parents over their bohemian lifestyle. Tom Hollander is great as Issacs, a slimy mercenary who can be a badass but also play it cool from the clothes he wears to his slick blond hair. Eric Bana is brilliant as Erik Heller, Hanna’s father who tries to prepare for a world where she’s chased as he is also a man that can kick ass but also has a warm side to him. While it’s a mostly serious role from Bana, he also allows him to be funny through subtle moments as it’s a fantastic role for the actor.
Cate Blanchett is phenomenal as Marissa Wiegler, a devilish CIA official hell-bent on capturing Erik and Hanna while doing anything she can to get the job done. With Blanchett sporting a Southern accent of sorts, it’s a very stylish yet fun role that Blanchett plays as she also makes her character cool and also, kind of likeable despite how bad she is. Finally, there’s Saoirse Ronan in a magnificent performance in her role as the titular character. Ronan truly sells the idea that a little 16-year old can be a supreme badass from the stunts she does along with her combat skills. Yet, Ronan manages to balance that dangerous side with someone who has a childlike fascination with things that are new to her while showing some subtle humor to how she does things. It’s a very remarkable performance for the young actress who is definitely becoming an actress to watch out for in the years to come.
Hanna is a fun, smart, and hypnotic action-thriller from Joe Wright that features a great cast led by Saoirse Ronan along with some amazing technical work and a brilliant score by the Chemical Brothers. Audiences wanting a different kind of action film that has some conventional ideas but something more will definitely want to see this. Fans of Joe Wright will be relieved to see the young British director refining his tricks while taking on something different as he broadens his range as a storyteller. In the end, Hanna is an excellent yet entertaining film from Joe Wright.
© thevoid99 2011