Cold and calculated is often the path that a revenge thriller takes to reach the multiplexes. Even more so, they always seem to revolve around a hell bent man on the road to redemption. Hanna attempts to steer away from the revenge formula in one major way: replace the scorned man with a female child who doesn’t entirely understand the motives behind her lust for blood. Unfortunately, for the titular character Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and the film, there isn’t a substantial reason for her violent ways, nor is there anything substantial for us to truly want to watch her initiate bloodshed. Because of this, Hanna is quite boring and lacking any semblance of dramatic drive.
The film starts off interestingly enough as Hanna’s strict assassin regiment is put on display. Through physical and mental tasks assembled by her father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana), Hanna is beyond ready to take on the demons that beset her path of redemption. Yet, the evildoers that her father has trained her to kill are nameless, except for one: Marissa Hiegler (Cate Blanchett), a CIA agent that has her cross hairs on Mr. Heller. After a few hard lessons are handed down to her, Hanna claims she is ready for her mission: assassinate Marissa Hiegler. With a flip of a tracking switch, Hanna is captured and rushed to a CIA compound. Just as quickly as she is captured, Hanna breaks out, kills a shitload of CIA agents (including a Marissa Hiegler decoy) and is on the run in Europe. Hanna’s goal, at least under the assumption that she’s killed Marissa Hiegler, is to meet up with her father in Berlin. As you could imagine, Hanna faces a few challenges. Not only does she encounter the wrath of Hiegler, which is accompanied by a hired gun by the name of Isaacs (Tom Hollander), Hanna has to adapt to an environment that she never knew existed: the modern age.
In some sense, Hanna is a fish out of water tale with vengeance being the springboard. The story at hand is stylistically told as the film is full of horrifying and trippy visual flourishes, but never does the vibe materialize beyond the aesthetics. From the lack of intrigue regarding the feud between Hiegler and Mr. Heller to the underutilization of Hanna’s introduction to the world around her, there’s no dramatic thrust to make the redemptive proceedings feel worthwhile. Even the terrific pulse pounding score by The Chemical Brothers feels dampened by the meatless story being told. The only real zest that finds its way to the screen is through the performances of Ronan and Hollander. The latter is particularly creepy as a killer who hums a childish tune that acts as a prelude to his violent acts a la Fritz Lang’s serial pedophile in M. Other than those two, the rest of the performances just merely exist.
Matching the static force of the actors are the tepid action scenes. I’ll give director Joe Wright some credit. His strengths are more inclined to British period pieces, so doing a film like this is undeniably a gamble, but he failed to make the action pieces explode with the power they deserve. They just end up feeling muted when compared to other films that feature violent explosions. Not that the film had to go beyond itself to craft volatile action scenes, but there should be a little more life found within them than what was on display. As a whole, Hanna should’ve taken us through the ringer in an efficient manner. Unfortunately, it keeps us at a distance and sparingly piques our interest.