As far as one can see, it is almost a complete blur of white. When the blowing snow passes, hundreds of trees reveal themselves. There is no noise to be heard except for that of pine needles rustling against each other and the occasional deer hoof cracking the otherwise pristine sea of snow on the ground. And while it appears to be the most remote corner of the world, untouched by mankind, there is a little girl hiding unnoticed amongst the trees and she intends to take down that deer. This is no ordinary girl though; this is Hanna, the title character in director Joe Wright’s latest film. And just like the girl, “Hanna” is no ordinary movie.
At 16, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has never left her home in the woods. Her father, Erik (Eric Bana), raised her there from a very young age, only he isn’t really raising her so much as he is preparing her. Wright reveals both her mission and her history very slowly and while his calculated restraint creates great intrigue, it is Ronan herself, working with Wright a second time after he directed her to an Oscar nomination in “Atonement”, that cements the fascination factor. Her focus is uncanny, as she memorizes countless facts and trains relentlessly every day and her resolve is shockingly powerful for someone so young. She may not know what she is fighting for but fighting is all she has ever known and is deeply committed to her father and his cause. Ronan carries “Hanna” almost entirely on her own and with almost as much intensity and bravery as her character must possess in order to survive.
Hanna is after a CIA agent by the name of Marissa (Cate Blanchett) and once Marissa knows Hanna is gunning for her, it becomes pretty difficult to decipher just which of the two is the hunter and which is the hunted. Blanchett plays Marissa as cold and deliberate, despite the warmth of her Southern drawl and her fiery red hair. Still, she knows something we don’t; she knows that Hanna is a force to be reckoned with and why that is exactly. She also knows that Hanna may have her priorities but that the world she now finds herself in – from Morocco to Berlin – will present a great number of distractions and that, despite her training, Hanna is still a 16-year-old girl and therefore curious. As good as Blanchett is though, Ronan’s ease keeping up with her shows incredible promise of what’s to come.
“Hanna” is an exhilarating film made by a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to make drastically different departures in his career. Wright makes strong choices with clear intention throughout the film, cutting back and forth between more natural settings and starkly contrasting modern motifs. The game at play is further driven forward by a Chemical Brothers score that is oddly sparse at times while explosive and frenetic at others. It is simply one of those pictures where you can see that everyone involved in the production is bringing their best work to the screen and that none of these contributors are afraid of the unfamiliar. The enthusiasm is undeniably infectious and the experience will not easily forgotten.
Review by Joseph Belanger