The Austin Chronicle


Rated PG-13, 110 min. Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Sebastian Hülk.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 8, 2011

A through-the-looking-glass, arthouse action minimasterpiece, Hanna couldn't be a more surprising departure for Atonement director Wright had it been titled Pride & Extreme Prejudice. Zombies aren't apparent in this grim fairy tale but there are plenty of walking dead men (and women) as Ronan, playing the eponymous teenage assassin, is unleashed by her rogue CIA-operative father (Bana) on his former handler, the deadly ice queen Marissa (Blanchett). Shot on location in Morocco, Finland, and Germany, Hanna has a refreshingly Euro-sleaze vibe. It's the polar opposite of Michael Bay's big-budget, red-white-and-blue explodathons – and all the more entertaining for being so. Regional accents abound and even the Australian-born Bana feels like a cipher from another planet during the course of Hanna's twisty and twisted narrative odyssey. The film opens in a frozen Finnish forest as Hanna, armed with a crudely fashioned bow and arrow, stalks some four-legged prey with cool aplomb. Cloistered far away from the real world by her father since (apparently) pre-adolescence, Hanna has been trained in a virtual SERE program: Survival, evasion, resistance, and escape are her métier, not to mention morally mandated murder and a stunning, raw charisma. With her freckled alabaster skin, tangled blond mane, and mesmerizing cerulean gaze, Hanna is like some obscure Finnish forest nymph, and, like the frosty woods in which she resides, she's lovely and lethal in equal measure. Her forest idyll comes to an abrupt end, however, when she declares to her father that she's "ready." Ready for what, exactly, is revealed only in fragmentary flashbacks. Screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr have strung together a series of wickedly original action set-pieces and have cunningly linked them together with a genuinely memorable group of secondary characters. Chief among these is Barden's Sophie, the boy-crazy, teen daughter of bickering hippie parents (Williams and Flemyng). Utterly oblivious to Hanna's background or her presently activated state, Sophie cheerfully takes the wild child under her wing (resulting in a double date that ends with one Spanish lad in a perilous headlock), while her parents wonder what's wrong, or right, with kids these days. If they only knew. Hanna is this summer's action thriller to beat, thus far. It's a strange and electrifying brew of Hollywood genre tropes recalibrated for a globalized sensibility. Ultimately, and just like its titular antiheroine, it becomes its own fantastic and feral beast, undomesticated and slathering bloody good fun all over the audience.

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