Saoirse Ronan plays a teenage assassin in Joe Wright's Hanna (2011)
There's a moment in David Mamet's State And Main (2000) when, upon being presented with sketches of a costume for his leading lady, film producer William H. Macy spits the delicious quip "Who designed these costumes? It looks like Edith Head puked, and that puke designed these costumes." That's the best way to describe bleach-blonde Tom Hollander's wardrobe in Hanna, an arthouse identity/revenge thriller about a naive young girl trained to be a ruthless assassin, à la Léon (Besson, 1994). It's a peculiar little movie - a literal electro fairytale; equally dreamlike and deadly, bending genre with anarchic glee but always within a classical narrative framework. One thing's for sure: The Brothers Grimm would have loved it...
For all the talk of Joe Wright (a curious choice) having formed an intelligent blockbuster, Hanna doesn't make a lick of sense. There are plot holes you could pilot the Titanic through, but the ride is so uniquely engaging that it doesn't really matter. What's important are the characters, and that you care about them. Despite some oddly sub-Hungarian accents Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana are believable as father and daughter, and also as a deathly training unit. Ronan in particular is astonishing in the titular role; the young actress does a great line in damaged sincerity and here she imbues her blank killing machine with a sense of doe-eyed innocence and human warmth. But the best performance in the film belongs to Hollander, playing a deliciously snakelike thug. Perverse, ruthless and terribly dressed, his whistling villain is the Big Bad Wolf of the fairytale, and he relishes every second of it. Blanchett is also fine, adding another accent into the mix (it's like everyone just turned up and did their own thing, regardless of direction) and campily playing it up. All of the characters are engaging, good or bad, and that's what keeps you hooked through all the silly twists and turns.
Hanna eventually runs into an insufferable middle class family who appear to have been pulled from a PTA meeting in the 1970's; free-thinking liberals, they talk in auto cued advice cards and serve as a heavy handed lecture on allowing kids freedom, and the ability to think independently. It's a good job their screen time is limited - I don't know how long I could have feasibly spent in their company. So what we're left with is a chase movie, and a very accomplished one at that. DoP Alwin H. Kuchler (who also shot Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher, 1999) gives the film an incredible natural beauty, especially in the early scenes of the snowy landscape where Hanna receives her training. A lingering shot on the sun setting over an ocean of white is incredible, and a sharp juxtaposition to the strobe-lit greys of an action sequence where Hanna escapes from a government HQ. The editing is also inventive, often cutting action sequences illogically, but in a way which gives them greater meaning - lending them a purely visceral quality. As I said before, it's as much an art movie as an action one. Shots last longer than in your average set-piece too, with one dockyard chase unfolding through a series of highly accomplished tracking shots.
It's a little overlong but the ending is, in many ways, the most interesting part of the film. Hanna reaches her destination - an abandoned fairground - and enters a Hansel And Gretel style house, wherein all her life secrets are spilled. It is here that she finally confronts Marissa (Blanchett) in a thrilling set-piece which brings us full circle to the first scene, rounding off the fairytale nicely. But the credits are equally engaging - I just sat there, listening to the outstanding score by The Chemical Brothers. Pumping and ethereal, it's by far the best aspect of the film, and I can't wait to buy the soundtrack album. Will you ever again be able to listen to somebody whistling without thinking of Hanna? I won't - it's just too damn catchy.