I look at Hanna in two ways, although I’m not sure which one I prefer. Either it’s two good movies surrounding a bad one, or a bad movie bookended by two good parts. Does one flatter more than the other? Regardless, I think they’re both an apt description of how I felt about it. Bring in a script that doesn’t meander in the middle, and you might have a really good film. As it is, well, I think you get the picture.
The first scene is perhaps our best one. It details a young woman, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) stalking a deer in the wilderness. While carving up its insides, a man stands behind her. “You’re dead,” he tells her. They have a fistfight, although the winner is unclear. It turns out, this man is named Erik (Eric Bana), and he is her father. This is a frequent occurrence, as Hanna is in training. She has been for approximately 16 years now, and the frequent question “Are you ready?” is directed toward her frequently.
We watch these two people, isolated from the world, live their lives for a while. Hanna speaks several languages, hunts for food by herself, has to be on constant alert — even when sleeping — and might possibly be a ninja. She has been taught to memorize a fake home life, right down to her imaginary dog’s name, which is “Trudy.” “Are you ready?” There’s a switch on the table which will activate a locator beacon, allowing the CIA to track the pair down. Why do they want to do that? When will Hanna be ready? What’s the plan?
At somewhere around the thirty minute point, the beacon is activated. The plan commences. Soldiers are sent down to capture whoever flipped the switch. Erik has already escaped, hair cut and clean shaven, presumably attempting to hide his identity or blend in wherever he’s going. Hanna waits inside, ready to be captured — but not before killing the first couple of soldiers who enter her humble hut. After being taken to, and escaping from, the CIA base, the plan becomes clear.
To say more would be spoiling. Suffice to say that Hanna ends up playing out like a very, very long chase scene involving three people: Hanna, her father, and a CIA agent named Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who may or may not have previous ties to the family. Hanna chases Marissa, Erik chases someone, Marissa chases both of them, and we spend a lot of time not really doing much, especially at the point when Hanna spends time bonding with some random family she meets in her travels.
Of course, the final part of the film is the culmination of these multiple chases. That’s exciting and fun and all that good stuff, but I had almost lost focus because of how long it takes to get there. These long-winded chases simply take too much time to play out. And this isn’t a film that is short, either; it is almost two hours long, about twenty minutes of which could have been trimmed.
To be fair, we do spend a great deal of time with Hanna, and we learn a lot about her. I believe we’re supposed to be rooting for her, although we’re initially unsure why. All we know is that she wants to kill this CIA person who is only doing her job. Eventually, this isn’t a problem anymore as she has managed to endear herself to us, but confusion was my driving thought for the first half of the film.
There are action scenes in this film, although not as many as you might expect. The first thirty minutes are quite action-packed, as are the final thirty, but in the middle, there’s isn’t all that many of them. Mostly, we just watch different people walk or run around various locations. We get a few character moments — enough for Hanna to win our affection, at least — but nothing terribly defining for anyone else. The result is a largely bland experience punctuated by brief, yet very engaging moments.
I did like the ending, particularly in how it tied everything together nicely. There’s even some nice mirroring of an earlier scene to conclude, which I thought was a nice touch. Once all of the explaining was done — who Hanna was, why she was chosen for this task, who Marissa was, what relation Erik really had with all of them, etc. — I viewed Hanna in a different light. You can watch it a second time and pick up different things, and I always think that’s a bonus. I just think that I might end up skipping past some of the middle parts if I were to do so. Or at least, I might want to.
Hanna would fall apart if Saoirse Ronan didn’t give a solid performance in the lead role. Donning a German accent here, she plays a cold-blooded killer effectively — scarily good, in fact. Bana and Blanchett are strong as well, although their accents are more distracting than anything else (and Blanchett’s wasn’t consistent throughout — sometimes it would seem more prominent, others it would disappear). But I believed they were their characters, which is the most important thing.
Hanna is a film that could have been a lot better with some more trimming of the fat, so to speak. We spend too much time not really doing anything for it to be great, but the beginning and ending are fantastic. Loose ends were tied nicely, and I liked the lead character (and Ronan’s performance of her). There’s a lot of boring moments in between the action scenes, so if all you want is a pure action film, you’ll have to look elsewhere.