There’s something intriguing about a child being raised away from civilization; a kind of Mowgli brought up by wolves. Think, then, about when that child is reintroduced to the modern world-never having seen electricity or another child to play with. This is the life of Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, “The Lovely Bones”), the main character in the recently released film of the same name directed by Joe Wright (“The Atonement,” “The Soloist”). Except in her case, this reintroduction is brought about for one reason only: To kill the woman who put her and her father into hiding, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).
There is one scene where Hanna first finds herself away from home, and ends up in a broken-down hotel in Morocco – a beautiful setting, distinctive from the wintry cabin scenes shot in Finland. Her room is well-equipped with a television, electric tea kettle and fan – all of which terrorize her the moment she is alone with all the contraptions. The cinematography in this scene is stunning, and puts you right in Hanna’s perspective emotively.
Also, its contrast with the scene just previous, in which Hanna guns down every last person she comes encounters at Marissa’s agency. While Hanna was visibly unfazed by this violence, not even pausing to wipe the spatters of blood discharged onto her face from each shot, she becomes a frightened child more representative of her true age when confronted with something so ordinary.
“Hanna” has been marketed as more of an action film, and while it spans many more genres the suspense and fighting are possibly featured most prominently. Definitely the most notable scene in “Hanna” on the action front is one in which Hanna’s father Erik (Eric Bana, “Star Trek”) meets self-professed “Sandman,” Marissa’s hired killer, and his cronies beneath a subway. With no one else in sight along the long, orange-tiled stretch of room, he beats all of them unconscious and then proceeds to convince Marissa that all is well via walkie-talkie, with an eerily convincing Sandman accent. The most impressive aspect of the scene is it was shot in one continuous take, and the one you see in the film was the second take. This means the actors had to learn the choreography all the way through, and act it out with no slip-ups and edits.
As hinted at by the Sandman’s criminal alias, there is a more fairy tale aspect crafted throughout “Hanna.” For example, in the isolated cabin where she grew up, when not busy learning how to be the most efficient assassin, she would read an old book of fairy tales. Also, the meeting place where she is supposed to meet up with her father – after she has assumedly succeeded in killing Marissa – is an abandoned amusement park built to look like the house of the Brothers Grimm. Wright said a relative had seen this place years ago in Bavaria, and he had always wanted to shoot a film there. The theme is continuous and beautifully done; however, the whimsical setting is quickly diminished as soon as Marissa and her henchmen arrive.
The soundtrack for Hanna is also no short of amazing. Each main character has his or her own “theme” that fits very well with what is going on at each time, all done by the Chemical Brothers. The Chemical Brothers are pioneers of electronic music, and by a happy coincidence Wright happened to see them live when they were just starting out and is now their close friend. The fact he had them produce the entire soundtrack for “Hanna” seems inspired by Disney’s Daft Punk collaboration in “Tron,” but he said he had been planning on working with them for some time.
The one thing that upset me about this otherwise enchanting film – keeping it from a five star rating – was the lack of closure and backstory development provided. You know Hanna is “different” the whole time, but as soon as the plot divulges a glimmer about Hanna’s past, her parents and Marissa’s hatred toward her, things happen too quickly for true comprehension and resolution. There is clearly an attempt to bring things full-circle at the end, but it doesn’t happen in an entirely satisfying way.
Background information about the characters and director of “Hanna” were gleaned from round table interviews at a press junket with Focus Features. Any bias subconsciously brought forth in this review is due to Focus’ payment for airline tickets, a night in the Four Seasons Beverly Hills hotel and $125 worth of room service.