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What’s the deal with stories about murderous young girls? We’ve had Natalie Portman in “The Professional” to Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl in “Kick-Ass”, and now we’ve got another sadistic teenager with the killer instinct of an indoctrinated child soldier and the intelligence of an espionage spy. Say hello to Hanna. She’s one hardcore kid, and it’s definitely worth learning more about her sad life.
Since birth, the combat prodigy (Saoirse Ronan) has only known the world her father, AWOL CIA agent Erik Hellner (Eric Bana), allowed her to experience. She’s the perfect hunter, with all the knowledge of the world but none of the firsthand experience. Music is little more than a dictionary definition, and friendship is something akin to a midterm concept to memorize.
The time finally comes for Hanna to carry out the mission she’s literally trained for her entire life: the assassination of CIA Agent Marissa Viegler (Cate Blanchett), a rather obsessive southern belle whose ominous past turned her into a jaded woman with some major maternal issues. Hanna poses as a weak child in order to get close enough to Marissa for the kill. Of course things don’t go according to plan, and Hanna soon learns that the real world is more difficult to navigate when divorced from socialization.
Joe Wright proved his feature film chops with best picture nomination for “Atonement”, and his latest addition furthers his eye for visual quality, editing and a film score that’s so much more than a soundtrack. Every aspect of production reeks with precision in this tightly knit story that doesn’t bother with subplots. Like a focused research paper, “Hanna” stays on topic and knows how to end without lingering on unnecessary details that soften memorable conclusion.
This is Wright’s attempt to prove he can handle the action-suspense genre and maintain his intellectual edge and artistic vision –– and he doesn’t disappoint. None of the film reads like a dramatic director’s soft attempt at something new, as he breathes new life into a formula film. It’s a superb piece of work that keeps the adrenaline as high as its twisted protagonist.
Props to the Chemical Brothers for one of the more enjoyable scores in recent years. Like “Atonement” and “The Soloist”, Wright elevates the role of music in his films, and teaming with a renowned electro group is just the way to prove that sounds of a rave can be just as enticing as “Triple Concerto, Op. 56, Movement II” performed by Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, when done right. I can’t help but compare the score here to the marvelous soundtrack of “28 Days Later”, featuring haunting and simple electric guitar score by John Murphy. In “Hanna”, nothing quite sets up a fight scene like a mesmerizing drum machine and synthesizer (and no, it doesn’t sound like “The Matrix”).
While several plot points are predictable, this one will stick with you. Don’t expect the revelations to be anything we haven’t heard before. Instead, prepare for strong execution (I’m sure there’s a pun in there somewhere). From performances to the visceral pleasure of the ride, “Hanna” goes beyond what you’d expect of both action films and anything that comes out in the first three months of the year.
While Blanchett and Bana provide predictably enticing performances, this one’s all about Ronan, the young star who was robbed of a supporting actress win in 2008. She’s definitely the first real candidate for the next awards season, but I’m not sure an action film, even one as fantastic as this, will be taken seriously (you never know, though).
Finally, a film worth viewing without any need to justify certain less savory aspects of the story. “Hanna” has the entertainment value of any spy thriller with the unique style of a director whose love for the finer things (i.e., literature, world music, etc.) translates into something original and just as highbrow without becoming pretentious or stuffy. It’s got the action and a modest bit of sadism that’ll cause your moral compass to waiver, even if only for a moment. If you only see one film this month, it better be “Hanna”; leave the rabbits, parrots and immature billionaires alone.
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