Even with Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett in the cast, Joe Wright's would-be thriller about a teen assassin is oddly boring
- Production year: 2011
- Country: Rest of the world
- Cert (UK): 12A
- Runtime: 111 mins
- Directors: Joe Wright
- Cast: Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Michelle Dockery, Olivia Williams, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Hollander
Too boring to be a proper thriller, and too goofily hectic for anything grander than that, Joe Wright's self-conscious new assassin movie Hanna is guided with sleek laser-accuracy at a precisely equidistant point between two stools. After a strongish start, the film doesn't so much sag as utterly collapse – each audience member will feel like someone who has flung himself into a hammock that isn't tied at either end. With its wicked-witch performance from Cate Blanchett, its derivative premise, its bland Europudding location work and some frankly outrageous boredom, this will test everyone's patience.
Eric Bana plays Erik, a battle-scarred professional tough guy with a guttural German accent hiding out in the snowy forest wearing clothes made out of furry animal skins, like Robinson Crusoe. Here he has trained up a lovely, ethereal teenage girl from babyhood to be an ice-cold killer – rather like Jean Reno and the infant Natalie Portman in Luc Besson's 1994 thriller Leon. The trainee ninja here is Hanna, played by Saoirse Ronan, whose lightning reflexes, juicy martial-arts moves and brutal survivalism are inevitably combined with a swoony vulnerable girlishness and a pining to know more about those fancy city things she's heard about,like music. But Erik is unremittingly tough on her, always testing Hanna's combat readiness by jumping out at her while she is busy looking soulful or killing a deer with her bare hands. She is Inspector Clouseau to his Cato. Then something very baffling happens.
Erik reveals to Hanna that whenever she feels ready, she can go into the outside world – by flicking a switch to make his "transponder" go bleep and alert the CIA to their existence and whereabouts. Then, he sternly warns her, she will have to battle for her very life with CIA dragon lady Marissa, played by Cate Blanchett with an intermittent Blanche DuBois drawl. For deadly secret reasons, and in a deadly secret capacity, she wants to whack them both, because they are privy to a deadly secret. When the switch is flicked, and just before the special forces come crashing into their woodland hut, Erik and Hanna agree to split up, go on the run separately, and meet later in Berlin. Why, oh why, don't they go on the run without telling their deadliest enemy where they are with this bleeping transponder of theirs?
And even if they think killing Marissa is a task they've got to face up to sooner or later, why not have a crack at it with the advantage of surprise? Now, in a pacy thriller, plot wackiness needn't matter; it didn't matter, for example, in Angelina Jolie's spy movie Salt, and to be fair it doesn't matter here during the scene when Hanna maintains a Hannibal Lecter-style composure under interrogation. But when our ultimate-fighting forest girl finally goes on the run through Morocco, southern Spain and Germany – like a cross between Kaspar Hauser and Bruce Lee – things get quite staggeringly dull. Hanna hitches a ride with a hippyish family, featuring Jessica Barden reprising her stroppy-teen act from Tamara Drewe.
She finds herself in a succession of lovely landscapes, and it's as if someone has inserted some sort of video travelogue for the holiday company Elegant Resorts: but what a strangely dull holiday it looks like being. At one stage, Hanna gets matey with Barden's character Sophie and they get flirty with a couple of cute Spanish boys, and there's a scene where they watch some flamenco musicians in the flickering firelight and this seems to go on for about an hour and a half. What on earth is happening?
Are they on some sort of sponsored flamenco-marathon? It appears to be the prologue to a madly unconvincing cute quasi-snog moment between Hanna and the boy. Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett is stalking about the place, a very unpleasant and unhappy woman with a maniacally fastidious taste in suits and shoes and a teeth-cleaning fetish.
A saintly old woman at one point actually tells her that as a childless person, she can't understand the grief of losing a child. This whiff of reactionary misogyny in the script almost put me on Marissa's side. But basically she looks like a robot from Westworld that's on the verge of going haywire. And just to top it off, we get a lot of unsubtle fairytale mythology, which is there to give the film a bit of thematic oomph. Hanna has a childlike reverence for a volume of Grimms' fairy tales which Erik had about the place in his forest lair and they fetch up in a Grimm theme park.
Compared to, say, to Chloë Moretz in the glorious black comedy Kick-Ass, Hanna is solemn, boring and lacking in girlpower. For Joe Wright, who made the excellent screen version of Ian McEwan's Atonement, it's a misfire.