A teen goes into the woods and the world and combats a witch and a wolf or two in “Hanna,” an internationally toned adrenaline ride that incorporates the Hollywood-popular ingredients of assassins and kick-ass girls into the fairy-tale recipe.
Directed by Joe Wright, this artful actioner pleasures the eyes and sizzles with vigor but lacks emotional impact between its opening and closing blams.
Suggesting a combination of “La Femme Nikita,” “The Professional,” “Run Lola Run” and “Winter’s Bone,” the coming-of-age drama opens in a Nordic forest, where teenage Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives with her ex-CIA-agent father, Erik (Eric Bana).
Erik gives Hanna intense survival lessons designed to transform her into a killing machine. This has prepared her for a mission involving Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), the cold-blooded CIA agent responsible for Hanna and Erik’s isolation.
During her journey, Hanna escapes from capture with striking, and brutal, efficiency and experiences electricity for the first time. She travels in Morocco with a British family. A showdown in a German amusement park, featuring the Big Bad Wolf, caps things off.
Wright previously directed “Atonement” and 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and, like those literary adaptations, this lower-prestige drama contains gorgeous surfaces.
Serving up graceful long takes with realist tones, Wright proves a classy, gritty, compelling action director. Memorable sequences include a chase transpiring among artfully stacked shipping containers.
The film also benefits from Ronan, whose Hanna Wright presents as action heroine, wild child, everygirl, and as seen in a shot suggesting Botticelli’s Venus, other-worldly presence. You believe she can disembowel a reindeer one moment and sweetly bond with a new friend the next.
Yet while it qualifies as visually splendid escapism, the movie is too long to sustain momentum (after about 90 of its 111 minutes, the sight of Hanna running loses something). And it doesn’t contain the emotional power that its more serious themes (including the loss of childhood innocence) and Ronan’s worthy performance should have produced.
Seth Lochhead and David Farr’s screenplay is partly to blame. The secret behind Hanna’s origins is silly. The climax is standard revenge fare. It’s nice to see Blanchett, but the high-heeled, impeccably coiffed villain she’s playing — a contemporary witch in the hut — is just a colorful take on the stereotype of the cold career woman.
In sum, when Hanna says, “I missed your heart,” she could be speaking not only to her shooting victim but also to viewers in regard to the effect of the film. “Hanna” is superior to most action fare, but it purports to be something deeper and, as such, leaves you frustratingly unmoved.
- Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
- Written by Seth Lochhead, David Farr
- Directed by Joe Wright
- Rated PG-13
- Running time 1 hour 41 minutes