An action hero can take the most unexpected shapes and faces, like the fierce little girl protagonist of this 2011 movie, Hanna.
Hanna lives in a remote and cold corner of Finland together with Erik, the man who has trained her agility and intelligence to the limits of humans.
Although she seems seemingly innocent and helpless, she actually has unexpected strength, speed, and fighting skills, raised to survive the harshest conditions and to respond without hesitation to the most dangerous threats.
Hanna’s life, however, is full of mysteries and unanswered questions, which will lead her on a journey of no return when she decides to activate a transmitter that alerts Marissa Wiegler, a ruthless CIA agent.
Erik, aware of the inevitable confrontation that will follow, reveals to Hanna that all her training has one purpose: to eliminate Marissa, the same woman who tried to kill her at birth.
From this moment on, Hanna tumbles into the world outside her forest, a world she has never known directly and where every corner can hide an enemy waiting to kill her.
However, the girl is not a robot without emotions and feelings, so she is happy to meet a traveling British family with whom she becomes friends, briefly experiencing the life of a typical teenager, a life of simplicity and carefreeness, in stark contrast to her previously lonely and dangerous existence.
From Finland to the distant Moroccan desert, Hanna’s odyssey will eventually bring her back to Europe, where she must confront the architect of all her pain and suffering.
Only then will she be able to shed light on the shadows of her childhood, discovering why she was always a target, even before coming into the world?
Around the world in a modern fairy tale
Hanna is Joe Wright‘s only foray into action, or at least I don’t recall any other movies from him before or after 2011.
That means the approach of this director, accustomed to costume drama like Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, or Anna Karenina, is quite different from what we usually see in this kind of genre.
Despite the entertaining fight scenes where we see young Saoirse Ronan kicking her enemies’ asses like a ninja, the story unfolds like a fairy tale in reverse.
Indeed, this time Little Red Riding Hood comes out of the forest and hunts for the wolf while discovering herself and her place in the world.
Wright packs these elements into an emotionally engaging, aesthetically appealing package with a pace suspended between the quick escape and more reflective moments of personal solitude.
This little James Bond girl’s journey takes her to the most exotic and different places you could imagine, each time with CIA hounds a few feet behind pursuing her.
Beginning her journey from the lonely, pristine Finnish forest to the sunny spaces of Morocco, the adventure ends in the heart of the noisy modern civilization of Berlin.
Each location brings a different moment in the evolution of this character, from discovery to exploration, revenge and expiation of evil sins.
Let’s also remember the excellent soundtrack by British duo The Chemical Brothers, who, as usual, combine electronic, techno, and house music to create a perfect synergy between Wright’s fantastic moving images and their music.
I have seen a few episodes of the series of the same name on Amazon, and while it is well-directed and interpreted, I still prefer the more compact and effective running time of this movie, which better represents, in every aspect, the incredible epic of this almost superhero-like action figure.
Young and adults, phenomenal actors
With another immense performance, Saoirse Ronan gives us an unprecedented glimpse of her delicate sophistication that transcends the sweetness of her age, revealing a new face of her talent.
Reflecting on some of my past recommendations, we distinctly recall Byzantium, The Host, and Violet & Daisy, for example, which, together with 2011’s outstanding Hanna, make up a mosaic of excellence dotted with interpretations in colorful and multifaceted movies.
Saoirse Ronan seemed doomed to reach extraordinary heights from her earliest steps in the cinematic world, just as Eric Bana, an actor of unparalleled stage presence and unmistakable talent, played the elusive father of the protagonist in this story.
Throughout his career, Bana has succeeded in bringing a wide variety of characters to life, even in less successful productions, such as 2004’s Troy, where, despite the disappointing Hollywoodian mood and plot, his portrayal of the heroic Hector comes across as authentic and powerful.
In this case, the Australian actor takes on the role of Erik Heller, a more introverted man whose silent but penetrating inner pain reveals the hermit-like life of a father who has trained his daughter to become an unstoppable instrument of death.
As I have often reiterated, a hero is only truly memorable when there is an antagonist of equal caliber, and the extraordinary Cate Blanchett does not disappoint, embodying an enemy at the top level.
Blanchett inhabits the role of a woman who concocts her plans in the shadows, avoiding direct confrontation, hiding behind her hired killers and CIA behavioral codes to mask a soul steeped in evil, with the beautiful actress giving a face to the faceless menace of Secret Service corruption and intangibility.