cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, and Tom Hollander

director: Joe Wright

111 minutes (12) 2011
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Universal DVD Region 2
[released 29 August]

RATING: 8/10
review by J.C. Hartley


After making Atonement, Joe Wright has hinted in an interview, that he was offered a superhero flick; but he didn’t say which one. Well, he may not have adapted a comic-book hero for the big screen but he kind of dipped his toe in the water with this really thrilling thriller. It comes as a bit of a surprise that the director of Pride And Prejudice – which is a satire on English middle-class manners of the early 19th century, and Atonement – which is another look at English social mores only with a war thrown in, should have made this cracking action movie. But then, why not, he’s a great director.

The teenage Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been raised by her dad Erik (Eric Bana, Hulk) in a hut in Finland. It’s an idyllic life, comprised of hunting with bows and arrows, learning foreign languages, and punching each other out. Hanna tells her dad that she is ready, and he provides her with a signalling device and takes off. The device brings a CIA SWAT team despatched by Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), two of which Hanna takes out. Taken into custody, Hanna asks to speak to Marissa who sends a body double, Hanna kills the double and some guards, and goes on the run through the eerie underground complex, reminiscent of the tunnels and sluices in Dr No, all to a thumping score by the excellent Chemical Brothers. Eventually, Hanna pops out of a manhole on a hill in North Africa; that’s your extraordinary rendition that is.

Hanna is befriended by a bohemian English family headed by the ubiquitous Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams of these shores, and their kids, including the precocious ‘OMG you mentalist’ Sophie (Jessica Barden). Erik arrives in Berlin, apparently having swum there from Finland. He is immediately attacked by a band of CIA goons in a brilliant one-shot, which Wright claims was the result of circumstances rather than showing-off, although there’s a wonderful tracking-shot in Atonement, and Wright admitting to showing-off suggests otherwise. Meanwhile, Marissa has hired fashion terrorist Isaacs and his gang of skins to track down Hanna.

So what’s the mcguffin..? Well, Hanna’s enhanced physical abilities are the result of CIA-funded gene-tinkering to create super-soldiers, Erik having recruited various host-mothers before falling for Hanna’s mother, who was murdered by Marissa as part of a CIA clean-up operation. This kind of gene-tinkering is bollocks of course, read Phillip Ball’s excellent Unnatural: The Heretical Idea Of Making People, to discover why, but don’t let a plot device detract from what is a marvellous film with terrific performances, real thrills, and a heart.

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The friendship between Hanna and Sophie is very touching. The trailer made me fear for Tom Hollander’s German mercenary, expecting a wildly affected take like Derren Nesbitt’s Von Hapen from Where Eagles Dare, but no – he is pretty good. The locations are good, a Brothers Grimm gingerbread house and a derelict amusement park are standouts, as are all the performances. Blanchett is brilliant as a villain, and so much better than her villainous role in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Ronan continues to impress, however it’s a lark reading about her character’s age, when various reviews have Hanna as 15, 16, and Ronan’s actual age is 17.

The DVD presentation has a director’s commentary track, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, and a featurette taking a closer look at Hanna’s escape from the CIA complex.