Hanna is the second actress-led action film I’ve seen recently, the other being Sucker Punch. They couldn’t be more different. While Sucker Punch bordered on exploiting women whilst claiming to empower them, Hanna is a complex character defined by more than just her gender. While the action sequences felt so boring and lifeless in Sucker Punch, in Hanna they mean something and you feel so much more invested because of it. Ultimately Sucker Punch can be dismissed as a vacuous piece of teenage masturbatory fantasy, whereas Hanna is one of the very best films so far this year.
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is being raised in a remote area of Finland by her father (Eric Bana). Raised isn’t the right word, perhaps; trained is more apt, trained for the assassination of corrupt CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). After she completes her training and allows herself to be captured, she unknowingly kills Marissa’s double before fleeing and beginning a long journey to reunite with her father.
A fast-paced thriller seems an odd choice for director Joe Wright, who made his name with literary adaptations of period dramas. His stroke of genius is to make Hanna’s journey the focus, and the story is packaged almost as a fairy tale, with the action sequences serving as an allegory for puberty. Combining quick editing and varied camerawork along with a frenetic score by The Chemical Brothers, the film really feels brought to life in a way that demands your attention.
Saoirse Ronan has been a promising talent for a while now. She was excellent in Atonement and the best thing about The Lovely Bones, but it was The Way Back that really served as her breakthrough. She gave a film about a perilous journey across thousands of miles for freedom a sense of humanity, and the film would have felt much more detached without her. Her performance as Hanna is therefore one of the most surprising things about this film, showing off her tremendous range, as she embodies her character perfectly – a girl bred for battle and almost entirely devoid of humanity save for a burning sense of wonder at the world. That she could give such contrasting back-to-back performances at such a young age is nothing short of staggering.
Hanna is, quite simply, the best thriller since the Jason Bourne films. If you like action with substance, you will not regret seeing this.