Dir: Joe Wright

Rating: 2.9/5.0

Focus Features

110 Minutes

“I just missed your heart,” the heroine of Joe Wright’s Hanna mutters to her quarry in the film’s opening and closing lines. Maybe it’s a subconscious reference to the Archers (when directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger believed one of their films succeeded it began with an arrow striking a bulls eye), but this repeated line really does sum up Hanna’s effectiveness: it has some thrilling moments yet doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Essentially a fairy tale gussied up in a violent chase film’s clothes, Hanna tells the story of a 16-year-old assassin (played by Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan with steely-eyed emptiness) who has spent her entire life in the Finnish tundra training to fight and survive by her nutcase father (Eric Bana, here adopting a German accent). But when Hanna decides to return to society, her coming-out awakens the fury of intelligence operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), hell-bent on killing her.

Wright presents Hanna as a hyperkinetic action film that has more in common with Salt than with such high-brow films in his back catalog as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice. As we follow Hanna through an underground military base, the deserts of Morocco, a shipping yard in Spain and an abandoned amusement park in Berlin, Wright tries to infuse his story with pieces of fairy tale and bildungsroman. Yes, we understand that Blanchett’s periodontally-obsessed secret agent is the Big Bad Wolf and Hanna’s globe-tripping escape tour is akin to her coming-of-age (including a near kiss that ends with her almost snapping the neck of a poor Spanish boy), but the film is so full of mind-numbing sequences that it is impossible to really care about what is going on. We also get to experience Hanna’s first brushes with electricity and music, but rather than play the scenes out with a sense of wonder or comedy, Wright chooses to go jarring again, making them exasperating rather than inspired.

What almost saves Hanna is its cast of strange and wonderful supporting characters. Hanna meets up with a bohemian family headed by Olivia Williams, stowing away in their van as they travel from Morocco to Spain. The closest the film comes to perfection is when Hanna, ensconced in the rear of the van, spies on the family as they sing along to David Bowie’s “Kooks.” Yet, there is something wrong here if I care more about the fate of this family than about the film’s heroine. Equally strange is Tom Hollander’s Isaacs, a bleach-blonde German killer who takes to wearing sweaters and short-shorts while palling around with skinheads and hermaphrodites.

Just like Salt, we must also wait for most of Hanna’s runtime before we find out her “secret” – and let me tell you, it’s one hell of a letdown. As a chase movie Hanna is moderately successful, but as a government conspiracy thriller, the movie has less going for it than the one about Hitler’s brain being kept alive in a vat. Worst of all is the pounding score by the Chemical Brothers, which turns Hanna into a music video for first-person shooter enthusiasts. Joe Wright may have tried to make his own Run Lola Run here, but that film’s heart pumped blood as red as its heroine’s hair. This one just misses.

by David Harris

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