'Hanna' — High-Class Action

At its heart, “Hanna” is a typical spy thriller about an assassin with identity issues. The twist is that instead of Matt Damon or Liam Neeson playing our deadly hero, we get a 16-year-old girl.

What makes this movie even more impressive is that while the powers that be could have been satisfied with the twist, cranked out a ho-hum movie and called it a day, we are instead treated to a nuanced and brilliantly acted little film.

“Hanna” was directed by Joe Wright who is best known for more genteel movies like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement.” Here Wright has taken a script that is silly at best and patently ridiculous at worst and then went and directed the holy heck out of it.

Then he went and cast the movie with outstanding actors, not the least of which is teenage acting sensation Saoirse Ronan, who already has an Academy Award nomination under her belt for “Atonement” and inhabits the titular role of Hanna.

I’ll hustle through the plot details because in all honesty, they are the least interesting thing about the movie. Hanna has lived the entirety of her young life in the arctic wilderness with her father Erik (Eric Bana), a vaguely European former spy. Erik trains Hanna in the deadly arts by day, and teaches her foreign languages and reads to her from a weathered encyclopedia in their cabin by night.

When it is determined that Hanna is “ready,” a plan is set in motion to draw out CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett), a cold and calculating woman who is deemed responsible for a great deal of familial tragedy. Hanna and Erik part ways and a great deal of globe trotting, capturing, escaping and killing ensues.

“Hanna” contains plenty of action, earning one of the hardest PG-13 ratings you’ll see, barely avoiding an R thanks to some timely editing and limited blood-splatter.

What “Hanna” really is though, is a coming of age movie and is at its most compelling when this young girl who has lived her life in isolation is tossed out into the wide world and has to – for the first time – deal with little things like “electricity” and “other people.” For a time Hanna travels with an eccentric British family on vacation and the friendship she forms with their very-worldly daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) is particularly endearing.


The acting in this movie is great all around. Bana has a lot of fun as the compassionate mentor and gets a pretty kick-ass fight scene in a subway terminal to boot.

Blanchet is as awesome as you would expect, cramming layers into what in lesser hands would be a one-dimensional villainess. Also keep an eye out for Tom Hollander who expertly chews the scenery as a euro-trash hitman.

But it is Ronan who is the heart and soul of this movie and without whom it would utterly fail. She never takes a single scene off and is just as believable when she is snapping necks as when she is shedding tears for a lost childhood. The future is very bright for Miss Ronan.

Again I have to give credit to Wright who makes lemonade from what very easily could have been a lemon of a movie. Even the film’s climax which is expertly crafted around a creepy old, abandoned German amusement park feels serendipitous.

“Hanna” isn’t a great movie, but the result is the best possible outcome we could ever hope to expect from all the elements in play; and that is certainly an achievement worth praising.

“Hanna” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.

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