This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 28th August 2011
Once upon a time, a tiny Natalie Portman burst onto our screens as the apprentice to Jean Reno’s serial assassin. Recently, Kick Ass saw a psychotic Nicolas Cage teaching his ballsy daughter the tricks of a similar, if flashier, trade. Somehow these morally dubious pairings never fail to thrill, and Hanna makes a worthy addition to what must now almost constitute its own genre.
Joe Wright (the bright young thing of British cinema, thanks to the multi-Oscar-nominated Atonement, and his vibrant adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) turns his directorial hand to art-house violence in this distinctly un-American and unashamedly exciting thriller. For reasons that become clear in the same measured way that our heroine takes in her surrounds, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, a deceptively fierce snow-nymph) lives in harsh isolation with her father (Eric Bana), training each day in martial arts and weapon combat. When suddenly thrown into captivity, Hanna’s quest is to find an evil Cate Blanchett (all auburn wig and Texan accent) and mete out revenge.
Befriended by an eccentric and jarringly modern English family (led by the wonderful Olivia Williams), Hanna traverses Europe via Spain and Morocco, chased by baddies against whom she can, in Jason Bourne-style, hold her own.
Set to an industrial Chemical Brothers soundtrack, this cleverly compelling tale ekes out the answers, spiked with Hanna’s own epiphanies as to what music feels like and how to behave as a normal teenager. As her new best friend would say: “Whatever.”