If the trajectory of Atonement director Joe Wright’s career went a little off course with his last film, touchy-feely US debut The Soloist, it’s now firmly back on track with Hanna.
A woozy mix of hard-as-nails actioner and modern-day fairytale, there are times when this surreal trek across Europe feel as if Hans Christian Andersen has rewritten The Bourne Identity.
Hanna (Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan) is no ordinary 16-year-old. Raised in a remote woodland cottage in the north of Finland by her father Erik (Eric Bana), a former CIA operative, she’s been skilled in everything from close combat to wilderness survival.
Desperate to go out into the world, her chance comes when the pair part company in the woods, just as the CIA – led by Cate Blanchett’s big bad wolf – close in.
Captured, and taken to be interrogated in a below-ground facility, Hanna uses her spy skills to hotfoot it out of there, finds herself in Morocco and uses a holidaying hippie Brit family (led by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) as cover. Befriending their daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden), Hanna briefly comes to realise what it means to be a normal teenager.
Wright never lets it get too sentimental though – partly because of the relentless pace and pounding Chemical Brothers score, partly because of a terrific turn from Ronan. Tougher than a barrel of cookies, she makes Kick-Ass’ Hit Girl look like a Barbie doll, and is certainly more authentic than Blanchett, rather miscast as the hard-ass.
There’s also a curious turn from Tom H ollander as an assassin instructed to pursue Hanna across the continent. With dyed blonde hair, silly German accent and turquoise shell-suit, let’s just say it’s not a good look. But then nothing about Hanna is ordinary.
Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. But, to borrow from David Lynch, Wright’s world is wild at heart and weird on top.
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Fascinating. Wright confounds expectations with a wholly original genre mash-up, anchored by the splendid Ronan. Offering a unique worldview, even Blanchett and Hollander’s sore-thumb casting adds to the strange texture.