The premise of Joe Wright’s latest, Hanna, sounds striking at first: A 16-year-old girl is trained to be the perfect assassin by her ex-CIA agent father and goes through a run in Europe to escape the intelligence operatives who know more about her than even she does. However, when that hour-and-a-half in the cinema is up, viewers may be left in bewilderment that in fact, this child wasn’t necessarily was trained, but merely bitter that she didn’t get to see the outside world—so she kills. Lightly.
Hanna’s (Saoirse Ronan) cold-blooded attitude is exposed straight-off-the-bat in the opening sequence, where she puts an arrow through a deer in snowy terrain and relentlessly shoots it before gutting it in full glory. It’s another day in the life for her and her father Erik (Eric Bana), who throws punches and kicks at her to increase her self-defense and helps instill fake backstories into her memory in case anyone ever found her. One day soon after, Erik decides his daughter is prepared to fully execute her skills on their ultimate target, CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett).
Marissa, who has been assigned to kill Erik and hires the mercenary Issacs (Tom Hollander) to assist her, chases the two across Europe, though the two have actually gone their separate ways. In a stop in Morocco, Hanna befriends an English girl named Sophie (Jessica Barden) and her family, who will help her get to Berlin to meet her father. This part of Hanna’s quest is quite the b-plot—a humanizing and humorous one, and sometimes tragic, as it demonstrates how this girl who knows how to survive through savagery knows of nothing else. In one scene, Hanna throws two dead and skinned rabbits on the family’s picnic table and says almost gleefully, “I found breakfast!” because she most likely never had a cheese omelet in her life. Though despite the assassin training, we realize how soft Hanna really is around Sophie (A valley girl with a British accent), and all her life she has yearned for a friendship like the one she quickly finds with her. Through these scenes, we see that Hanna is one complex and well-rounded character—a young girl who is not at all heartless, but can be viewed as sheltered.
This gives a lot of room to explore both Erik and Marissa’s backgrounds, which attempts to be shielded in mystery for most of the film, but only ends up being annoyingly vague. Certainly, there are gun shots, bones cracking, and bloodshed galore. What’s frustrating is that the protagonist, who’s a rare kind of action heroine at 16 and with training, doesn’t seem to do much of it herself. Instead, she’s the one led on a wild goose chase. Then again, Ronan—while undoubtedly an excellent performer, especially in this movie—still possesses too much of a fresh-faced look to be believable as a killer. Plus, while the storyline with Sophie and her family allowed a lovely character development for Hanna, there still wasn’t the feeling of fear and danger, only a warm and fuzzy time (And awkward moments) and a slowing down of pace.
One positive highlight that makes this film memorable, however, is the unconventional Euro-industrial score by The Chemical Brothers. The electronic beats go hand-in-hand with the chase and action sequences and emphasize the low-scale intensity they have.
Ultimately, Hanna isn’t the full-fledged, action-packed thriller that it could and should have been. But it’s far from being a complete waste of time. Just don’t take it too seriously, and it shall be a moderately fun movie day or night out.