Hanna has one of the most eye-catching openings I've seen in a while. A girl hunts a deer and after she wounds it, she coldly utters, "I just missed your heart." This is our first glimpse of Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), a teenage assassin trained by her father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana). Erik has raised Hanna to one day kill Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett), a CIA agent whose connection to the Hellers isn't as apparent as one might think. In fact, even after the film is over, one questions just what exactly is the history between Erik and Marissa or Marissa and Hanna. This is a film where the extent of relationships are left open to the audience to interpret This includes everything from Marissa's relationship with a hit-man named Isaacs (Tom Hollander) that is dispatched to deal with Hanna to who exactly are Erik's associates that are keeping his secrets. Like any good thriller, we can never be sure who knows what and when you have this genre meet with the talents of a director like Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist), the result is quite poetic.
I could explain all of the fairy tale symbology and what this means for the movie, but I'd actually like to view it again before I delve deep into it. Obviously, Hanna's story starts off in an idealized world, the fantasy-world similar to the world where a girl walks alone in the woods and three pigs try to kill her (yes, I realize I'm mixing up my fairytales on purpose). Then she meets the real-world and is forced to grow up. Whether it is seeing the good in people like Rachel and Sebastian's (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) family or the evil of Isaacs and Marissa as they go after every living connection to Hanna, Hanna gets hit bluntly with both sides of a world that we can assume she has been censored to. Yes, her father showed her love, but he also trains her to do things no adolescent should do.
Wright brings in his understanding of all the elements of the cinematic experience and there are scenes that I can think of that best describe each of them. The cinematography and color-scheme in the old man's house, the editing during the escape from the desert complex, the thumping score by The Chemical Bros. during the fight in the container park, and the sound when Hanna turns on all the electronic appliances in a room... There is a moment for all the elements of a film to shine. This also wouldn't be a Joe Wright film without a long take and this one featuring Bana walking and fighting was damn impressive.
As for the performances- Ronan, Bana, Blanchett, and Hollander all shine. They do a great job embodying their characters. I think of a sequence that actually features all four of them (when Hanna meets up with Erik in Berlin, but Marissa and Isaacs are right on their trail) and I'm just damn impressed with the right tone of emotion they can elicit in the middle of an action scene.
In all honesty, there was something that kept me at a distance. Maybe because the film is an exploration of a character that I've rarely seen, but then again, it's a character-type that films have been having fun with as of late (the young kid who can kick-ass). Not to say I didn't feel any emotion, I was just more impressed with how technically astounding this film was. It ranks as my favorite U.S. theatrical release of 2011 so far and as one who got to see footage of it at New York Comic-Con back in November, this didn't disappoint.