“Hanna, what did your mum die of?
I have a deal of affection for Joe Wright’s Hanna, a film I saw at the cinema as part of a birthday treat back in 2011 and so watching it again for the first time has that special layer of extra memory attached to it. Which it kind of needs as I’d forgotten how loopy the revenge thriller is. Saoirse Ronan’s Hanna has been raised as a crack assassin since birth by her ex-CIA father Eric Bana but hidden away in the isolated Arctic tundra as current CIA supremo, Cate Blanchett’s insanely fruity Marissa, wants them both dead to protect a secret they possess.
One day, Hanna declares that she’s ready to take on their nemesis and the ensuing cat-and-mouse chase takes our characters from Finland to Morocco, Spain to Germany, all to the beats of a thumping soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers. Wright folds in elements of The Brothers Grimm into the story too to evoke a very dark fairytale feel. And it’s one that works intermittently, the hyper-stylised violence hits hard and provides the energy that is sorely needed in some of the quieter sequences. Ronan is a mesmeric screen presence as this impossible girl and proves a dab hand at doing her own stunts.
Wright utilises some cracking British talent in his supporting cast – Jessica Barden (so brilliant in Armstrong’s War) is a brattish contemporary of Hanna’s and along with Olivia Williams as her liberally-inclined mother offer her a glimpse of the kind of family life that she’s never had, Michelle Dockery has a vividly memorable cameo near the beginning and Tom Hollander is ingeniously cast against type as a bleached blond hitman, trying to carry out the vicious wishes of Marissa’s twisted behest.
But for all the Sturm und Drang initially coming out of this certainly original concept, there’s also a slight sense of hollowness to it, its lack of restraint makes it a little tiring when there’s not quite enough intellectual sustenance for counter-balance. Blanchett is good fun as she always is when she’s the villain but she can do this in her sleep, there’s nothing testing her in this role at all, Bana likewise isn’t given enough to work with as Hanna’s father and so whilst I enjoyed going back to rewatch Hanna and the memories it provoked, I can’t say I’d be rushing to come back for more.