This review was originally published on Pol Culture.
The director Joe Wright is known for tony literary adaptations such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. With Hanna, he tries his hand at a pulp adventure story. The title character, played by Saoirse Ronan, is a teenage girl who has been raised in isolation by her father (Eric Bana) in the subarctic Finnish wilderness. The father is a former CIA agent, and he has been training Hanna since birth to be the perfect spy and assassin. After he feels she has come of age, he sends her out in the world. She quickly becomes the target of a senior CIA operative (Cate Blanchett). The journey is one part mission and one part road to self-discovery. Much of it is Hanna coming into her own as an indomitable killing machine, a aspect of herself about which she becomes increasingly ambivalent. The film is a glossily incompetent mess. The screenplay, credited to Seth Lochhead and David Farr, from a story by Lochhead, doesn’t give Hanna’s odyssey a clear purpose. There’s no urgency as a result. The picture treats the Blanchett character’s designs on Hanna as a mystery, but there’s no suspense there, either. One isn’t made to feel what’s at stake if she did nab Hanna, so it’s hard to work up much concern. The thinking appears to be that since Hanna and her father are the “good” characters, and the Blanchett character and her agents are the “bad” ones, then that should be enough for the audience’s engagement with the chases and the confrontations. Matters aren’t helped by Wright’s flabby direction. He shows little interest in pace or drama. The scenes function as an excuse for empty flamboyance. He's very fond of intricately edited montage and extended traveling Steadicam shots. Each are strikingly executed, but one would be a lot more impressed if Wright managed to enhance the story with them. (He would also do well to avoid single-take shooting in action scenes. His fight choreography is abysmal.) The disinterest in effective storytelling extends to Wright's handling of the actors. The only performer who makes an impression is Blanchett, and it’s the wrong kind. Her sleek villainy is so cartoonish one can’t help giggling. The elegant cinematography is by Alwin Küchler. The Chemical Brothers provide the annoying electronica score.