Hanna spins pointlessly, despite performances

Hanna – 2011

Directed by Joe Wright

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jessica Barden, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng

Written by David Farr, Seth Lochhead

There is a moment in Hanna, when Erik Heller (Bana) gets in somewhat of a lackadaisical fight with two pursuers in the remnants of an old amusement park.  The fight finishes with Erik on top when, inexplicably, he takes a moment to spin his beaten foe in a merry-go-round.  There is no reason for this, and, moments later he is smacked on the back with a pipe handled by deliberately queer henchman named Isaacs (Hollander).  This hit, in the one place one might swing a metal object towards Erik’s blind spot without hurting him much.  From here, Erik turns table and finishes him off, too.  Moments later, after another altercation, there is a second body rotating on the same merry-go-round.  Why?

Hanna starts off intriguingly, with a father and daughter living peacefully off of the land.  An obvious effort to train the daughter is occurring, as she is quizzed in several languages and about a variety of topics.  The reason for this training is revealed soon enough.  He shows Hanna a toggle, and tells her as soon as she is ready, she can  flip the switch, inviting the bad guys.  If this doesn’t happen, we don’t have a movie.  Take a guess what happens next.

Why would this section of the Subway station be empty? For a fight, of course.

Erik departs first, on foot, and escapes the oncoming swat team, who take Hanna without a fight.  We soon find the reason for this, and so, too, does the woman in charge, CIA officer Marissa Wiegler (Blanchett).  At this point, the movie turns into a game of cat and mouse on two fronts.  This is alternately effective (in Hanna’s case), and, somewhat inexplicably bungled (in Erik’s case) by the filmmakers.  Given that Hanna had to escape a detention center in lockdown, and Erik was free to swim across the wide expanse  of the northern European coastline, you’d think it’d be the other way around.  Again, this is a movie only if the characters are trackable.

As the waifish and lethal young title character, Ronan is lithely effective.  She is at times knowledgeable and  hopelessly ignorant, yet still knows enough to keep hidden or accessible when necessary.  Ronan does an admirable job with the role, and makes her time spent with the unsuspecting family in the middle third of the film almost worth the price of admission.  There is a conversation with the mother (Williams)  that is comical in the way that this middle age Brit expresses some of the “problems” of her existence to Hanna, who has a body count in the teens within the last few days of her life.  Add to this the absolute hilarity of the older daughter’s interactions with Hanna and you have the makings of a good film.  Too bad it didn’t stay there.

Blanchett doesn't flinch much in this role.

Cate Blanchett is one of the great actresses working today.  She plays Wiegler as almost charmingly mechanical.  The efficiency in which she works behind the scenes is a tour de force early on.  One can really picture her as a ruthless CIA kingpin, lethal and decisive.

Eric Bana is the least effective of the regulars.  He looks confused much of the time and his accents are questionable.  His fights are strangely choreographed.  One has a hard time discerning whether he is fighting, falling, or just tired.  I really expected more out of him in this role, but the director did him no favors.

The biggest letdown of the film is the last third.  Logic takes a backseat to mechanics.  The big secret of the film is incredibly thin in the credibility area.  The actions of the characters at this time is so consistently foolish, it’s amazing that anyone of them could be considered a danger to anyone but themselves.  Instead of making the principals look like the really effective agents, they all look silly at times, especially with the last two.  For no reason whatsoever, the one carrying the gun attempts to run away from the unarmed one and climbs…

Might as well be a Disney film.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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