I’m a sucker for ladies who can kick ass.  Thats why I love so many of the things I love.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Veronica Mars.  All great shows featuring strong female characters who can throw down with just about any man they come across.  Well, its time to add another lady to that list: Hanna.

Erik Heller (Eric Bana) was a high ranking and extremely skilled CIA agent under the watchful guidance of Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett).  He discovered a secret plot headed up by Miss. Wiegler so he fled with his infant daughter to the wilderness of Finland, the only place the CIA won’t be able to find him.  Since then, Erik has been training his daughter Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) to be the ultimate agent.  She speaks numerous languages, is a skilled fighter and is extremely intelligent.  Now that Hanna is finally ready, Erik gives her an old transmitter and explains her mission.  When Hanna flips the switch, the transmitter will signal the CIA who will come and take her into custody.  Once inside, Hanna is to ask for Marissa Wiegler and put an end to the CIA’s hunt for Erik by killing her.  But Marissa is a clever woman.  She sends an impostor in to interview the girl and watches as Hanna promptly kills her.  Hanna manages to escape the military stronghold and begins the long journey to meet her father in Berlin, completely unaware that the real Marissa Wiegler is hot on her tail, determined to take her and her father out.

Part of what Makes Hanna so successful  is how well its handled.  Joe Wright is primarily known for having directed Pride and Prejudice, a poetic tale about young people in love.  Wright brings the same poetry to Hanna.  The action isn’t vulgar or unrealistic.  Quite the contrary, its treated with a messy reality that is incredibly refreshing.  Additionally, unlike most movies classified as “Action/Thrillers,” the film puts the characters in the forefront.  Are there white knuckled moments of intensity?  Yes.  But the surprise in Hanna was that I more often found myself gripping the armrest a little tighter when Hanna was facing the things she didn’t know.  She knows how to fight and there is plenty of action to be had, but the real excitement came when Hanna was making her first friend or going on her first date.

It didn’t hurt that the cast was incredible.  Erik Bana has a similar quality to Ed Norton in that you can see all the gears turning.  You can literally see his thought process happening on screen.  He carries himself so well through this movie as a man who is  exceptional in so many ways, but is weighed down by the things he has sacrificed to be alive.  Cate Blanchett plays Marissa with such coldness, a rare treat from a woman who so often plays the polar opposite.  This woman is made of stone.  She is single-minded in the most terrifying of ways, sacrificing everything for her mission.  Knowing the great on-screen compassion Blanchett is capable makes her turn as Marissa even more frightening.  She.  Won’t.  Be.  Stopped.  And I adore that in a villain.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible work of Saoirse Ronan.  This girl is IT.  Hanna is a character who knows so much in theory.  She has mastered many forms of combat, she has memorized the encyclopedia and she can survive just about anything thrown at her, but she has absolutely no real world experience.  She has never eaten at a restaurant or gone shopping.  Hell, she has never met another human being besides her father.  Imagine how difficult this makes her journey.  Not only does she have to apply all of the skills she has spent her entire life mastering, but she is also thrown into a world she has only read about.  She’s a bit like Wall-E.  She was programmed for a specific mission, but now she is realizing that there is life and emotion beyond that programming all while running from an agent who’s skills rival that of her master.  That’s a lot to process and Saoirse Ronan brings an incredible reality to the character.  The entire film rests on her, and Saoirse delivers.

Twists, turns, strong women, amazing performances, well choreographed action, a haunting score from the Chemical Bros. and Joe Wright’s classy direction make for a really entertaining and thought provoking film.  This is the kind of movie that made me love film to begin with.  Hanna, much like the Grimm Faery Tales she grew up reading, has so much more substance and depth then what she appears to be.

RATING: 10/10

~ by Andrew Craig on April 29, 2011.

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