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Josh Reviews Hanna!

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a young girl who has been raised in total isolation in a frigid, rural setting by her father Erik (Eric Bana).  When we first meet Hanna, it becomes immediately clear that Erik has been training her to be a fierce warrior — tough, smart, and fearless, with a keen tactical mind and skills with all manner of different weaponry.  Erik has apparently been in hiding from government agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett) for years, but now that Hanna has become a teenager she has grown tired of her isolation.  So Erik allows Hanna to let Marissa know where they are hiding, setting young Hanna on a violent collision course with Erik and Marissa’s secret past.

Hanna is a violent, fast-paced thriller.  This story could have been a slow-burn story of intrigue and subterfuge, but while there is no shortage of intrigue and subterfuge in the tale, Hanna is a kinetic, adrenaline-pumping film right from minute one.  The throbbing, techno-beat pumping of the score reminds me of Run Lola Run, and it drives the action scenes forward with at a propulsive pace that is also reminiscent of that terrific German film (read my review here).

This was not exactly the type of movie I expected to see from Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement.  But his second collaboration with Saoirse Ronan is incredibly potent, and Mr. Wright brings extraordinary skill and style to spare to this film.  And truly, Hanna is an exercise in cinematic style from start to finish.  There’s nothing exceedingly unique about the story of spies and their dark secrets, but the execution by Mr. Wright and his team give the film a truly distinct flavor all its own.

They are ably assisted, of course, by the terrifically talented threesome of Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett.  I haven’t seen Atonement, the first film that brought Ms. Ronan national attention a few years ago, but she is a captivating presence here.  There’s a bright intelligence to be seen behind her piercing blue eyes, and she is entirely convincing as the brutal, feral warrior she has been raised to be.  She also completely sells the moments of naive innocence exposed in Hanna when she’s confronted with aspects of the modern world that she’s never before experienced.

Cate Blanchett is touch as nails and entirely unlikable as Marissa, which of course is exactly what the role calls for.  Ms. Blanchett dials back her charisma to create, in Marissa, a woman who is clearly a shell of a human being, totally devoted to her job and her pursuit of secrets that has become her whole life.  She’s a great villain.

Then there is Eric Bana, who I have become convinced over the years can simply do no wrong.  He was wonderful as a super-hero (in Ang Lee’s Hulk), as an Israeli assassin (in Steven Spielberg’s Munichread my review here), and in the entirely comedic role of the somewhat manic soccer-loving husband of Leslie Mann in Judd Apatow’s Funny People.  Mr. Bana is incredible as the super-spy Eric — the man is dangerous and brutal, but we also see the human heart that beats inside of him (and that is so noticeably missing from Marissa).  It’s a great role.   I’d love to see a whole separate movie that fleshed out Eric’s history and back-story!

Hanna is pretty brutal — not just in terms of violence (and there certainly are some moments of vicious violence) but also in the tragic way in which the narrative unfolds.  The last scene is sad but oh-so-perfect, a wonderful way to bring this dark, dirty little story to a close.  I think Hanna is already gone from theatres, but if you ever have an opportunity to catch it on DVD it’s worth a shot.  Be prepared for a pretty grim little story, but one told with great skill and craft.

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