'Hanna' – a Fairy Tale For a New Age

Joe Wright's adolescent super-spy thriller brings a fable-like feel to a very modern tale.

Once upon a time in the wilds of wintry Finland, there lived a 15-year old genetic experiment with hair of gold, nerves of steel and the preternatural strength to physically subdue a grown man without batting a cornsilk eyelash.

In "Hanna," director Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Pride & Prejudice") introduces huldra-like titular heroine (played by Saoirse Ronan) and, moments after a demonstration of her bow-hunting prowess, sets the movie’s title on typographical stun and immediately fosters a fairy-tale feel for both film and character.

Hanna’s mom is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.  (Concerned adult: “What did your Mom die of?”, Hanna: “Three bullets.”) So it falls to the viewer to reason that the unkempt man in animal skins (Eric Bana) engaging Hanna in all manner of education and sprinting-through-the-snow-Rocky-style training must be her dad. Melancholic mooning over a strip of photos and a book of, you guessed it, "Grimm’s Fairy Tales" makes it clear that young Hanna isn’t quite satisfied with solitary life in the forest and yearns for, at the very least, options.

Reluctantly her father admits her assassin education is complete and she’s ready to return to the real world, but warns of a murderous CIA honcho, Marisa (a ginger and decidedly Southern-fried Cate Blanchett) who will hunt her until either “you or she is dead.”

If we’ve learned anything from “Twilight,” it’s that teenage girls, particularly the storybook variety, aren’t known for being conservative on the risk front. After literally flicking a switch, our fair young heroine blows her world wide open and winds up in government containment hoping to complete her mission and ultimately, rendezvous with father in Berlin. Things don’t exactly go according to happily ever after. Hanna finds herself on the run, half in love with beautiful world that she doesn’t belong to and on a warp-speed assimilation trajectory into the trials of teendom. Watching Miss Raised by a Wolf attempt to surf the Internet and deal with the prospect of her first kiss sounds disastrous but, was handled with enough skill to be tender and relatable rather than silly.

While Wright keeps easy pace with the speed of the thrill-centered plot, he also patiently, almost painstakingly, lingers on the stimuli and interactions that develop "Hanna" into something far beyond a novelty plot vehicle. Her first friend, Sophie (splendidly played by Jessica Barden), inclusion in a happy family, the overwhelming sounds of the modern world and even the various cultures and landscapes she observes all comprise the uncharted depths of a more complicated version of life than either her father or Marisa represent. Unfortunately, there’s so much focus on Ronan’s character development, the minimal attempts to provide insight into any other character’s motivations are too belated or murky (My what sharp teeth you have, Cate Blanchett!) to be poignant.

More unfortunate is the rushed, annoyingly tidy ending that loops improbably back to the original premise instead of addressing lessons learned. It does more to suggest an ill-advised sequel than adequately sum up the progression of the tale.

The score by the Chemical Brothers is well worth the admission price as are scene-stealing support performances by Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng.

"Hanna" is now playing at the following local theaters:

750 Montgomery Glen Drive, Lansdale PA 19446

12:25, 2:50, 5:20, 7:50, 10:20

Regal Warrington Crossing 22
140 Easton Road, Bldg. F, Warrington, PA 18976

1:20, 4:10, 7, 9:50


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