16-year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been raised in the Finnish wilderness by her father (Eric Bana), and systematically trained to fight and survive. As soon as she’s ready, her father sends her on a mission to assassinate intelligence operative Marissa (Cate Blanchett), while Marissa in turn tries to hunt the girl down. Along the way, we see Hanna struggle to fit in with normal people despite her background, and get a few revelations about who she really is and why she’s hunted.
The spy story itself is predictable and doesn’t make much sense, even though the script has appeared on the “black list” for best unproduced screenplays for both 2006 and 2009. It’s unclear why Hanna needs to assassinate Marissa and reveal her own existence in the process, as opposed to simply hiding. Marissa’s own reasons to hunt Hanna down don’t seem believable, and the revelations about Hanna’s background are not very surprising or original.
However, the individual scenes are skillfully, sometimes beautiflly, crafted and we’re treated to a few great performances. Cate Blanchet is scary as the obsessed Marissa, and Jessica Barden is hilarious as the chatty American tourist girl who befriends Hanna. Hanna herself is a mixed bag. The film tells us she’s detached and unempathic, but utterly fails to show us this – she only fights when she feels threatened, and tries to protect people she’s become friends with. Ronan does as well as she can with the self-contradicting role, and plays Hanna as perceptive, self-controlled and socially awkward, while acting out the fight scenes with an intensity which befits the character.
The film is at it’s best when it attempts characterisation and humour. The action scenes are very believable, and are rendered in a grounded, realistic style, but it’s not enough to lift the spy plot above mediocrity. If you want an action flick with some characterisation and good direction, you could do a lot worse than Hanna, but don’t expect a masterpiece.