When The Adjustment Bureau came out some hack wrote “its Inception means Bourne” and this was used in the marketing. It kinda makes sense, they’re too successful, well reviewed flicks but it clearly wasn’t true, the film was nowhere near as complex or interesting as Inception, and it didn’t have the urgency, kinetic energy and engaging qualities of Bourne. It was an average sci-fi thriller carried by Damon’s charisma.
Similarly, Joe Wright’s thriller Hanna has been compared to Leon, primarily because of the fact both films feature young female assassins. But they’re really not that similar, its like comparing Operation Dumbo Drop with Apocalypse Now just because both are set during the Vietnam war.
Leon, was about an innocent adopted by a professional killer, offering him a chance to form a human relationship that had been missing in his life.
Hanna, is a very different beast.
16 year old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the Scandanavian wilderness, where he has trained her to hunt, fight and generally be a killing machine. This is all for the day when Hanna will chose to reveal their presence so she can kill Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) a CIA officer.
Hanna kills Wiegler’s double while in custody and escapes having discovered that Erik is a former CIA agent who has been on the run having betrayed them and has knowledge the agency wants keeping quiet.
Hanna falls in with a middle class travelling family (the parents played by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemying) who decide to help her on her journey to Berlin, having believed the cover story she has been taught by her father and where she is to meet up with Erik.
Wiegler enlists three hitmen, two fellas who look like they’re from the National Front and their leader, a peroxide blonde, whistling and camp killer (Tom Hollander).
Having killed one of the assassins and escaped Hanna heads for Berlin, with Wiegler taking the family into custody and Erik heading to Berlin as well, now aware that Wiegler is still alive.
Hanna becomes aware that her father’s version of her past is not exactly true and that she is part of a government programme to genetically enhance babies into killers.
I won’t tell you what happens in the German capital but you can probably guess that they don’t sit down and sort things out over a cup of tea.
Its all a bit of a departure for Joe Wright, who’s only previous work I’ve seen is the Keira Knightley version of Pride And Prejudice, which was alright but hardly action packed. Yet, he shows a knack for action sequences, with the film possessing an intense kinetic energy with well edited fight scenes, which are filmed with the same quick paced, intense realism made popular by the Bourne films (part of me misses the kind of overly showy, choreographed 90s fight scenes best evidenced in the films of John Woo). There’s a real brutality in the film’s combat scenes, yet Wright doesn’t sensationalise it in any way.
Helping give the film momentum and enhancing the feel is a phenomenal soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, which is a pulsating, driving musical backing track for the film, and has now been added to my music wish list.
I don’t want to make it sound like some MTV, fast cutting action fest, in between the fights Wright shoots the film beautifully, from the snowbound isolation in the opening chapters to depicting Wiegler’s intense, ordered personal life as well as lyrical scenes that capture Hanna’s wonder at the new, vibrant world she discovers. The different tones and atmospheres are realised completely, yet the changes in gear are smooth, with no jarring between the elements.
Wright is aided by three brilliant central performances. Bana is the least showy roles as Erik, giving the character a quiet intensity and nobility, and Bana looks and moves like someone who knows how to handle himself.
He doesn’t get much dialogue but in his few lines he conveys an inner dignity and the impression of a man uncomfortable with emotions yet who still feels compassion and affection for his daughter.
In the title role, Ronan is phenomenal, her large blue eyes give her an almost unnatural look, which fits with the films backstory and perfectly captures Hanna’s hardened, well trained, almost cold blooded approach to life. But there are glimpses of childlike enthusiasm and innocence as she experiences a wealth of new experiences in the wider world.
But the star of the show is Blanchett as the devious Wiegler, who begins the film as a ruthlessly efficent, ordered proffesional character yet as the film progresses her cool exterior begins to crack. Wiegler’s evil side is never overplayed, and Blanchett conveys it through simple mannerisms, including a sharklike smile.
Wonderfully shot and paced thriller, with strong performances and a blinding soundtrack, and really not that much like Leon. 4/5