Joe Wright (director of ‘Atonement’ and ‘Pride & Prejudice’) has diversified with this action film focusing on the female trained assassin Hanna (played by Saiorse Ronan from ‘Atonement’ and ‘The Lovely Bones’). It isn’t obvious that he isn’t familiar with the genre, he tackles an action film with style and skill but the problem here isn’t the direction. It’s the writing which lets the film down.
‘Hanna’ begins in a forest in the middle of nowhere; we see a young girl trained both mentally and physically by her father (Eric Bana) to become an assassin. This is fine, but the real problem the film never really reveals to us is why this is necessary. It is made known that there are “bad people” after Hanna but it is hard to understand why this training is necessary when the film begins with her alerting this organisation of her whereabouts. It makes little sense, but then the audience hardly cares.
The visual spectacle of the film is by far enough to distract you from the flawed script. The geography of the film spans from icy tundra to Moroccan desert and European city which gives the audience the impression of a vastly important subject (even if it isn’t really) but also adds scale and excitement to the story. Fight scenes are of the quality of the ‘Bourne’ Films, they are up close, fast and merciless. One fight in particular is deeply impressive; it consists of one extended shot which follows Eric Bana down an escalator and face off with numerous agents.
In fact, in many respects ‘Hanna’ is just Bourne with a young female lead. Both have a story involving some political intrigue and an underdog fighting a huge corporation and both have a confused identity they strive to discover. However, what the Bourne Trilogy gets right is the balance of complex story with action, something ‘Hanna’ seems at a loss to find. Perhaps Joe Wright is attempting to make an “action” film and so deliberately leaving the more narrative aspects of the story by the wayside. Whether true or not, the audience gets this impression and unfortunately the film loses that cerebral engagement the Bourne films have.
The most well known actors; Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana, are definitely not the stars of the film, although perfectly adequate they seem only there to frame Saiorse Ronan’s growing stardom. Saiorse shows us yet again that she isn’t just a one trick pony; she proved her worth in her oscar nominated performance in ‘Atonement’ and now she shows real potential to be a HUGE star. For a young performer she holds the audience’s attention particularly well, and provides a well rounded character with wit, intelligence and beauty. She is definitely one to watch for the future.
So, although it is essentially ‘Bourne’ with a young girl and a shakier story, ‘Hanna’ does prove to be worth the watch. Joe Wright proves himself yet again as a very capable visual director and an excellent performance by Saiorse Ronan keeps the audience emotionally engaged. But here, the phrase “Style over Substance” comes to mind. It’s up to you whether this is a good or bad thing.