The plot is an unpredictable rag-bag of influences: bone-crunching action sequences straight out of the ‘Bourne’ franchise jostle with cosily bourgeois family scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mike Leigh movie. Like ‘Bourne’, the landscape is post-Cold War, the mood icily Germanic, drawn from Le Carré, Wim Wenders and ‘The Day of the Jackal’. But ‘Hanna’ doesn’t centre on a rogue CIA agent or a terrorist plot: the figure at the heart of this whirlwind is a seemingly innocuous teenage girl.
Saoirse Ronan is Hanna, whose life has been spent in wintry isolation beyond the Arctic Circle, to where her father Erik (Eric Bana) fled when his cover as a spy was blown. But now Hanna wants to see the outside world, and the only way she can do that is to allow herself to be captured by Marissa (Cate Blanchett), the intelligence operative who has been hunting them all these years. Luckily, Erik’s method of education went beyond the usual home-school textbooks: Hanna may be ignorant of life beyond the forest, but she can take out a platoon of enemy soldiers without breaking a sweat.
It’s a fairly unremarkable set-up, but Wright and screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr don’t let it pin them down. Once Hanna takes to the road, the film grows wonderfully unpredictable, often very funny and even strangely affecting. This kind of fish-out-of-water schtick has been done to death, but Ronan’s wide-eyed innocent routine has real charm, and most of the supporting characters – particularly Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng as granola-grazing parents trying to teach their kids about the wider world – are brilliantly sketched.
The same can’t be said of the villains: Blanchett is impressive but a little too removed, while preening psycho Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his gang of neo-Nazi bully-boys seem to have wandered in from a far less interesting movie. The inexplicable decision to lumber both Ronan and Bana with German accents also backfires horribly.
But what’s most remarkable and gratifying about ‘Hanna’ is how well Wright directs action: while the film as a whole may be episodic and wayward, and not always in a good way, the action scenes are uniformly sharp, inventive and gripping. Anyone who found his dramatic films a touch too by-the-book may wonder if he’s now found his true calling.