“Hanna” succeeds as a complex action adventure story

A father trains his daughter to be a living weapon and survive anything in “Hanna,” which impresses despite plot flaws.

Hanna succeeds as a complex action adventure story

David Hoffman, Writer

It’s always frustrating to see a good movie that could have been amazing. “Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright, is one such example. It’s original, well performed and amazingly shot, but unfortunately, its problems are prevalent enough to keep it from reaching true greatness.

Saoirse Ronan, whose performance is just as fascinating and odd as her first name, plays Hanna, a 16-year-old girl who has spent her whole life living in the forest with only her survivalist father and an assortment of dead animal carcasses to keep her company. He has trained her to be a living weapon. What for, you ask? It’s a question that the film keeps vague for a surprisingly long time, a quirk that ultimately works to its detriment.

When he decides that she’s ready, Hanna’s father sends her on a quest across Europe, to a place we never learn much about, warning that she’ll be pursued by Marissa, a mysterious government agent (is there any other kind?) played by Cate Blanchett. Where is he when she embarks on this mission? Well, he leaves a short period of time before she does, to go to the same place she is supposed to go to, and to do the same thing he trained her to do. This makes no sense on the surface, but the film keeps us enough in the dark to think that it might be the key to some greater plan that will be revealed as the plot moves on. Not so. Hanna’s father just does those kinds of things when the script wants him to.

Film suffers from some holes in plot

Hanna’s father is played by Eric Bana, best known for his villainous role from 2009’s “Star Trek.” The part itself is played well, but Bana’s performance is stifled by the fact that nearly everything he does is polluted by some level of stupidity. He spends years prepping his daughter for a mission that will require her to stealthily sneak through Europe, but never bothers to teach her how to hold to basic social conventions.

She knows how to skin a moose, but freaks out the first moment she encounters an electronic ceiling fan. He gives her a fake back story to recite, but doesn’t bother telling her how to say it in a way that sounds genuine. One has to give him credit though –– he made sure that she had the exact population of Leipzig memorized. Just imagine all the situations where she’ll have that to know that to survive.

Breakout acting carries film

Despite all of the flaws of this basic story, Hanna still manages to succeed, largely due to Ronan’s magnificent performance as the titular character. Her pale skin and wide-eyed gaze give her an almost ethereal appearance, but it’s her acting that truly humanizes the character. The brunt of the film follows her adventures through Europe and Africa, trying to avoid capture by the government forces at Blanchett’s beck and call. On the way, she connects with a family of tourists, including a surprisingly endearing valley girl-esque daughter who becomes her first real friend. It’s in witnessing how she adapts to her surroundings and develops a bond with those around her that gives the story a deep, deep level of humanity that makes up for the hole-ridden plot.

A special mention should also go to Tom Hollander as “Isaacs,” a chubby, flamboyant assassin sent to retrieve Hanna. With his beach-blond hair and effeminate demeanor, he resembles a combination of Jason Bourne and Perez Hilton. He’s every bit as disturbing and horrifying as he sounds.

Cinematography and camera work impresses

Wright further shows his talent in the camera work and the cinematography. Whether in the forest of Finland or the deserts of Morocco, every location is given the chance to show us its personality. The camera shows us a unique but still effective angle of the action in nearly every tense scene. During the action sequences, Wright shows that one can have an active camera without making it shake at the seizure-inducing levels that it seems to in so many modern action movies.

Despite its flaws, Hanna is one of the best and most interesting films released this year. It’s a must-see for action fans.

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