If they gave out oscars for Most Style Points, Joe Wright, Director of “Hanna” would be the frontrunner right now. He has crafted a movie that’s colorful and boyant and scary and joyfully weird. It’s a film student masterpiece. A technical A++.
But all the artistry in the world is for nought if the story falls short. And in Hanna…you guessed it…the story falls short.
To be sure, it’s not terrible. The premise is good. A young girl, Hanna, trained to be a killing machine by her father, is let loose in the world. We meet an especially unlikable CIA agent who is to be the target of Hanna’s killing skills.
The trailers lied to us about this movie. It’s not a “little girl as Jason Bourne” type film. Even though there are some pretty spectacular sequences employing the skills of Saoirse Ronan’s character. As well as a particularly memorable fight scene with Eric Bana and five nameless goons. But this is really a sort of coming of age story, about a girl who is discovering the world for the first time. And Joe Wright films it that way. Through the eyes, and ears of a child. Everything is curiously wonderful, or scary. Hanna is on her own for the first time. She meets her first friends, almost has her first kiss, learns new truths about people and her own childhood. It’s engaging enough, but definitely short on action. If you came to see Hanna kick a lot of butt, you won’t be completely satisfied.
The performances are very good. Standouts include Cate Blanchett as the evil CIA agent. She devastatingly assured of herself, and has dismissed compassion to hide her secrets and get her job done. Jessica Barden, a young English actress turns in a surprisingly funny and effective performance as Hanna’s new, very straight forward, promiscuous friend. And of course, Ms. Ronan herself, who is pitch perfect and consistant every scene.
The problem isn’t that the film is billed as an action film when it’s really a film with some action in it. And the problem isn’t that it’s shot like an art film. It’s that the plot is really paper thin. We never learn why any of this had to happen. We never get enough from the story to have a strong emotional connection to the characters motives. Sometimes they act contradictory to what we’ve learned about them. Most of the time, they just do stuff they have to do, because the story says they have to do it. The storytelling is adept enough, that we can go along for the ride and trust that we’ll get the answers we need. And we keep waiting for more enlightenment, then the movie is suddenly over.
There are instances when a movie needs not explain everything. Sometimes, a film is more effective when it leaves you with unanswered questions to think about. But Hanna leaves us with questions, I’m quite sure it doesn’t have the answer to. Questions the filmmakers may not have thought about, and we weren’t intended to be asking. Hanna leaves us unsatisfied. It’s a great looking and great sounding film. A lot of stuff happens. But a lot of stuff happening does not a story make. Grade: C+
Focus Features presents: “HANNA.” Directed by Joe Wright. Written by David Farr and Seth Lochhead. Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jessica Barden, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng. Rated “PG-13″ for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language. Running Time: 111 minutes.