No, this isn’t a film about the bloke who co-created The Flintstones, it’s about a family who wear animal skins and live in a cave. Totally different thing.
|Poor Ms. Ronan seems cursed to forever wear silly hats in movies ... Remember the woolly bonnet from The Lovely Bones? Shudder.|
Hanna begins with considerable promise, showing scenes of a teenage girl being taught advanced survival skills as well as armed and unarmed combat by her father in the depths of a snowy forest, where they live a bare-bones life in a hut that is barely more than a primordial cave. Sort of Big Daddy and Hit Girl above the Arctic Circle.
She understands that she is being readied for her return to The World, but not why or, indeed, what that actually means. However, she is a teenager, wilful and curious, so her father (played with straight-faced restraint by Eric Bana) unearths a radio with a big red button on it. If she presses the button – The World will come a-calling and all her training will come into play.
Well, come on, it’d be a pretty short film if she didn’t push the button.
Hm. Maybe that’s why director Joe Wright made the unusual choice of hiring The Chemical Brothers to provide his soundtrack. Their score is stark and alienating and a throw-back to their nineties work. It’s excellent to listen to but, unlike the magnificent work done by Daft Punk for Tron Legacy, the Chemicals’ tracks fit with neither the pace not the tone of the film. The film is redolent with chilly seventies paranoia, much closer to the work of Kraftwerk. Given that Hanna and her father are German, a soundtrack by the ‘man machine’ would be appropriate in all sorts of ways. But, no.
A word or several about that German accent. Saoirse Ronan is, you may recall, the girl from The Lovely Bones (2009) which was, arguably, her breakthrough role; but she was actually ‘discovered’ by Joe Wright when he cast her in a key role in Atonement (2007). She was 13 at the time. She is now 17 but could pass for four or five years younger. She carries this huge, unwieldy film on her slender shoulders almost alone for much of its run-time, makes the task look effortless and does so throughout with a (to my tin ears) flawless German accent. Excellent work, there!
|This is Ronan's sixth major films and she's just 17. I have t-shirts older than that which have never been in a film. Just saying.|
After she escapes the capture her father trained her for, Hanna decides to sample The World, by walking across it and so the film turns into a road movie as she tags along with some hippies (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) and travels through various picturesque parts of North Africa. We visit an idyllic oasis full of quaint locals … being quaint; there’s a fire-lit sing-a-long with some joyful locals who are … quaint and there’s some fun with a hotel manager who has to explain to Hanna what electricity and television are whilst maintaining a demeanour of curmudgeonly quaintness. All these Third World sequences are shot in shades of orange and russets to make them warm and welcoming and (in case I haven’t made my point yet) quaint.
When Hanna crosses over into Europe, the film’s colour palette changes again, to steely greys and blues. She walks between dank, graffitied walls and past mad homeless people who are very far from quaint. Message received guys.
|Back in Europe ... Ever had the feeling you were being watched?|
Then we get to the mystifying inclusion of Isaacs (Tom Hollander) a camp, sadistic, Udo Kier-alike who is clearly an assassin but who is hired simply to follow the girl. Hollander is simply terrible. Utterly unconvincing, not remotely scary and, even worse, inadvertently funny. There is one scene when he is covered in blood but there’s no one hurt. This leads me to surmise that his role was re-cut and toned-down to earn the film that all-important 12A certificate, but rendered nonsensical in the process.
Too many of the plot’s twists rely on coincidence and happy accidents; a sign of lazy writing (or too many ‘notes’ from producers, maybe). However, what is even more distracting is the way that the film heaves with art-school subtext. We have festoons of Fairy Tale imagery. The only book Hanna was allowed to have whilst growing up in The Wild was an aged copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and elements from these stories run through her story; from a woodsman (her father) to a gingerbread house in an amusement park to a big bad wolf’s head sticking out the ground at one key moment.
|Cate Blanchett doing her best Tilda Swinton impersonation as the cold, obsessive, murderous woman in 'fuck you' heels.|
This, then, makes the head of the CIA, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) - who is obsessed with stopping the child at all costs - into The Wicked Step-Mother. As the film builds towards the inevitable confrontation between them in Germany, the Fairy Tale references becomes really distracting and you are forced to wonder what Wright and crew were thinking … Surely all that subtext stuff should be got out of the way earlier, so the show-down can be got on with? But, no.
So, Hanna is a patch-work girl of a film, with some delightful moments and some mystifyingly half-arsed moments. It has great locations, beautifully shot, but pantomime caricatures populating those landscapes. Ultimately, it has a great first ten minutes (a sure sign that scribe, Seth Lochhead, was paying keen attention during those expensive script-writing seminars) which promise one film – a mix of Leon and Nikita and Bourne – but, sadly, delivers something unfocussed, confused and disappointing instead.
Dir: Joe Wright
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana,
Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett
Dur: 111 mins