Joe Wright, known for his direction in Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist, does a solid job of creating a template for future female hero-trials with his most recent film, HANNA.
Starring Irish phenom, Saoirse Ronan, who first got the audience's attention with her performance in Wright's Atonement and later in Jackson's film adaptation of The Lovely Bones, Ronan effortlessly plays the character of a motherless genetically-engineered, CIA-trained sixteen-year old who literally goes from the isolation of Finlandia's wooded horizon to the wider-world in what seems like the blink of a fairy-tale's eye. With overt allusions to the Brothers Grimm, the film attempts to play with not only traditional hero roles, but the roles of mother-and-child as well as villain.
Aussie Eric Bana plays Hanna'a ex-CIA operative single-father. Cate Blanchett also represents AUS rather well as the American handler of Bana's character, and the ultimate villain of this new twist on the female coming-of-age storyline.
I love a girl who can kick butt, and HANNA does it with a sense of the real that is simply uncanny. There are a few disconnects in the storyline--like Hanna's naivte about the fates of those she leaves behind--attempts by the writers at subtly, but it misses the mark. There's undoubtedly a lot of HANNA left on the cutting room floor, explaining the blips in the storyline--we can't blame the writers for everything. But instead of hinting at what was behind the mystery, the only thing accomplished was a lack of cohesion. Perhaps Wright and the film's producer's thought the audience would be too distracted by the action sequences to notice...we may be dumb, kids, but we're not THAT dumb.
Overall, an entertaining film largely due to the fine acting of Ronan, Bana and Blanchett. I would have liked to have seen a less cliched ending--which was inappropriately followed by an abrupt HANNA stamp in white lettering against a shocking red background (too comic-booky for what was a more mature storyline)--the villain coming out of the mouth of the wolf after the audience was banged over the head with everything from an actual book of Grimm's Fairy Tales repeatedly popping up, to Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf playing the background, did not do justice to what was an attempt at a clever fait de compli. Still, Wright's vision was straight and true; and Ronan clearly worked very hard to earn the audience's respect in her role.
The audience often takes for granted that all film projects are a huge risk--no one knows how a movie will turn out until the project is actually complete--which can take months upon months, even years. Films like The Fighter and Black Swan won their fair-share of accolades at the Oscars, but almost all of those involved consistently said that when they began the projects, the future success was in no way definitive. So understand that all the disconnects in the storyline, whether caused by lazy writing or over-zealous editing, could not be recognized from any other seat but that of mine and yours--the audience. We are the final judge and jury in the film industry. Sometimes, people will flock to the worst movies simply because a particular actor is involved, or because it is part of an ongoing storyline (Fast and Furious...cough, cough). Meanwhile, how can Hollywood justify investing in new territory like HANNA?
I want MORE film projects like HANNA to be initiated in the next decade. I want to see MORE exploration of strong, independent female characters who don't have to be former models, strippers, or prostitutes to get the respect of the male characters around them. Thanks to films like HANNA and KICK-ASS, it looks like there's an opening in the near future for such explorations...maybe HANNA 2??? (And if you want help, Joe et al, I'm just a tweet away!)
On the Housel-scale, HANNA receives a justified 8/10. Good luck to Saoirse in future...and happy 17th birthday on Tuesday!