Hanna Review

(2.5 STARS)

Hanna isn’t quite the film you’d expect from director Joe Wright. The man who directed Pride and Prejudice and Atonement does an action-thriller? It’s an odd match on paper, but it works on film—at least as far as the story will allow. Wright’s film looks gorgeous. It sounds terrific. Yet, it’s totally lacking in heart. I wasn’t the least bit interested in this girl’s story, and though a few solidly exciting scenes save Hanna from being unwatchable, it’s far from the rousing success I had heard and hoped it would be.

The great Saoirse Ronan plays the title character, a young girl being raised in the deep Arctic woods by her father, Erik (Eric Bana). Rather than going to school and learning how to be around people, she’s taught how to hunt, kill, and evade enemy capture. Why? Because when she’s ready, Hanna will flip a switch and begin a mission years in the making, one that will introduce her to a dangerous U.S. federal agent, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), with whom she shares a bloody past.

You can’t say Hanna isn’t a stylish film. The cinematography and editing are top notch, and the Chemical Brothers score is probably my favorite of 2011. Wright clearly knows what he’s doing whether he’s making a period piece or an action film like this, and he’s managed to surround himself with other technically brilliant men and women. If only he could track down some better screenwriters.

My main (only) complaint complaint about Atonement was its poor screenplay, specifically the dialogue. It’s the same deal with Hanna, but the problem is significantly magnified. This is a story that’s cliche-ridden at best, an Ambien alternative at worst. Though the action scenes are well-staged and exciting, the time in between them is dreadfully slow and not even remotely involving. I didn’t care much about Hanna the character, who’s essentially a less charming version of Hit Girl from Kick-Ass, and I really didn’t care (one way or the other) about those around her.

I’m a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan, and I think she’s going to be huge one day. She was the best thing about The Lovely Bones, and she earned a deserved Oscar nomination for Atonement. In this film, she’s merely adequate. Gone is the twinkle in her eye that was present in most of her other performances, the one that just screamed “I’m a star!” I appreciated some of the film’s quieter moments, in which she has to learn on the fly how to interact with other humans. But on the whole, this is a flat character and Ronan struggles to make her presence felt.

The less said about Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett the better. Their accents are weak at best, and they do a worse job than Ronan at making their poorly conceived characters stand out. Blanchett is especially a disappointment, considering the previously infallible actress hasn’t given a truly outstanding performance in almost three years (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Hanna is definitely more disappointing than bad, but despite some great moments, this is a messy, problematic movie. Its faults weren’t things I expected—not just because of its uniformly positive reviews, but also because of the talent involved. To pull off something extremely familiar like this, you have to make sure it’s so well-made as to stave off boredom. When you’ve seen something done well a few times, it’s hard to have patience for the same thing done poorly. That’s the Hanna situation. It’s too generic and familiar to feel necessary. Just download the soundtrack, instead.

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