Hanna intriguing despite worn genre

Director Joe Wright charts new territory in his latest film, Hanna.

Here, the director spins the story of a deadly assassin girl, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and her expatriate father (Eric Bana), living together in the wilderness.  The young heroine, only 16, ventures into the real world to seek refuge and a “normal” life.  

Needless to say, it is a far cry from Wright’s past projects, which include Pride and Prejudice and Atonement.

From the beginning, viewers are presented with a violent, voyeuristic look at an everyday hunting scene in the day and life of Hanna and her father.  The scene opens up the narrative, but also establishes a Kill Bill-esque vibe that persists throughout.

It is hard to avoid the expectation Hanna will mimic other action movies with predictable narratives, like the Mission Impossibles and the newer James Bonds. Furthermore, the idea of a super human, created to be an ultimate warrior is hardly fresh for the silver screen.

But where Wright is most successful is in his ability to shock the audience. In many scenes, Wright either does exactly the opposite of what is expected, or generously gives Hanna a deus ex machina, like random tourists in the Moroccan Desert, that dramatically flips the direction of the story.

The unexpected tourists Hanna finds in the desert are a family that appears to be a travelling pack of-Jack Kerouac-wannabes.

The family is a ridiculous group that initially feels like it should not be in the film. But Wright surpasses expectation and is able to use the family for comic relief.

Wright avoids the clichéd humor that is an epidemic with action movies and uses the vacationing family to give the audience something to genuinely laugh at. The daughter in particular offers a hilariously satirical look at materialistic youth.

Aside from random spurts of comedy, Wright also presents hefty symbolism and recurring images, creating a surging effect that drives the film forward from its jump-start beginning to its grating ending.

Nature and folklore seem to be the biggest motifs as a majority of the film is a journey through the external world. The very idea of experiencing the outside world is often coupled with references to the famous Grimm Brothers’ dark fairytales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel.

The only real shortcomings of the film are in Wright’s over-embellishment of cheesy action scenes and the lack of background information.

Some of the combat scenes, especially the hand-to-hand ones, are slowed down for dramatic effect. This effect fits appropriately in some scenes, but in others, the slow motion is bound to elicit more laughter than awe.

The cinematography, however, redeems the action scenes with fantastic effects when experimenting with different points of view, twisting camera angles and rotating shots.

Yet many of the characters, like Hanna’s grandmother and the main antagonist, Marissa (Cate Blanchett), are not given much back-story. This lack of background pervades the film, making some aspects of Hanna distracting and hard to follow.

But the acting in Hanna is top-notch, as Ronan portrays a protagonist who is simultaneously mysterious and creepy, yet somehow charismatic and badass. Blanchett successfully plays the role of the intense, malevolent and ruthless antagonist.

In addition to the premium acting, the music score composed by Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands, aka The Chemical Brothers is a stunning and fresh accomplishment.

The Chems’ electronic, bass-thumping music serves as a successful lynchpin for the film, as it magnifies the intensity of the action scenes, ultimately adding to Hanna’s abrasive edge.

Luckily for Wright (and the audience), the accomplishments of the film heavily outweigh the mishaps.

The film itself is an audacious action thriller that sometimes feels like it’s not only hell-bent on the destruction of Hanna, but on the viewer as well.

The ending is eerily similar to the beginning, leaving the viewer feeling shot in the face, but it is a morbid feeling viewers are sure to oddly enjoy.