“Hanna” might seem like a dramatic departure for director Joe Wright and his favorite young star, Saoirse Ronan, who last collaborated on 2007’s period romance “Atonement” before reconnecting, at Ronan’s suggestion, on his new movie, which opens Friday.
Yet Wright, 38, says his latest, a “Bourne”-inspired thriller about an Eastern European teen trained from her isolated childhood to kill — a task at which she is frighteningly adept — isn’t so different from “Atonement” once you delve beneath the surface.
“I don’t classify movies in terms of genre because I’ve never wanted to make a genre film,” Wright says, lounging in a suite at the St. Regis Hotel. “Both movies are about characters with very specific views of the world — fantasists and their imaginations, people who have to learn how to live in [reality].
“These are the characters Saoirse and I are drawn to, because we both feel like freaks. That’s what binds us together.”
Actually, neither Wright nor Ronan, 16, seems freakish in any sense, save for their unusual candor and, particularly in Wright’s case, their success in imbuing a wonderfully strange, briskly paced adventure with a meaningful subtext.
That begs an obvious question: What is “Hanna” really about?
“The objectification of women,” Wright says. “Whatever happened to feminism? I thought it was supposed to change the world. I find the way women are viewed in society to be difficult and alarming.
“I never once envisioned Hanna in a miniskirt and a crop top, like the girls on the ‘Sucker Punch’ poster. That’s not empowerment. That’s using sex for sale.”
Ronan admits to experiencing the same social awkwardness as her character — and which Wright himself felt as a boy — but says she is comfortably aware of her own individuality. She doesn’t necessarily identify with Hanna’s violent outbursts (though she pulled no punches in her intense on-camera fistfights with co-star Eric Bana).
Still, she does identify with her embattled heroine on another level.
“It’s important that she be a strong character,” Ronan says. “But she’s on a coming-of-age journey, learning to deal with all these strange new experiences that frighten her, and I’m still going through that myself.
“So as much as [‘Hanna’] seems like an action movie, or a surreal fairy tale, it’s something more than that. That was what drew me to it. And that’s why I wanted to make it with Joe, because I knew he would recognize that and bring out the best in the story.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Cate Blanchett
Written by Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Directed by Joe Wright
Rated PG 13
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes