‘Hanna’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated April 9th, 2011 at 2:28 pm,

Hanna official movie trailer Hanna Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Hanna

The classic princess fairytale is currently being thoroughly deconstructed and reassembled for the modern movie audience, and so far the results have been a mix of spot-on modern sensibility (Tangled) or, more often, a spotty patchwork of undercooked ideas (Alice In Wonderland, Red Riding Hood, Sucker Punch).

Out of this struggle to find a new way to spin the “damsel in distress” tale comes Hanna, director Joe Wright’s (Atonement) unique vision of the fairytale princess reinvented as Jason Bourne.

The plot is classic fairytale with a modern edge: Once upon a time, a young girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lived with her father, a former CIA agent (Eric Bana), in the forest. Daddy taught daughter everything he knew and trained her to be the best little warrior she could be, so that one day she would be ready to face an evil CIA agent named Marissa Wiegler, who had been searching high and low across the land for the young girl and her father.

When the young girl starts to come of age, she decides to venture out into the big bad world beyond the nice little bubble she grew up in, in order to slay the evil agent pursuing her. But the evil CIA agent and her henchman have Hanna in their sights as well – and if she doesn’t get them first, they will get her…and her daddy, too.

If you don’t see the fairytale parallels yet, just replace the words “young girl” with “young princess,” “former CIA agent” with “kindly king/hunter” and “evil CIA agent” with “evil queen” or “big bad wolf.” See it now? However, fairytales have never been as action-packed as Hanna is.

Saoirse Ronan Hanna movie Hanna Review

Saoirse Ronan in a scene from 'Hanna'

The idea of Cinderella or (more specifically) Little Red Riding Hood being re-imagined as a teenage assassin is creative enough, but director Joe Wright takes things a step further in the right direction by actually filming this movie in the modernized style of a fairytale. This makes a delicious bit of sense, considering that Hanna views the real world as a fairytale land: a strange place she’s only heard about from the encyclopedias her daddy used to read her.

One scene (Hanna’s stay in a shoddy hotel) hammers this real world/fairytale world juxtaposition home with hilarious results; when Hanna is making her escape from a government facility early on in the film, the camera spins in circles, just as the young heroine’s world is spinning out of control (a classic fairytale movie trope). On the whole, the film is a tightly-edited patchwork of visual iconography, allusion and symbolism – just like you would find in the illustrations of a Brothers Grimm fairytale.  The fantastical tone of the film also plays well when juxtaposed to the more grounded, grittier moments of action and violence – of which there are plenty.

Any good fairytale odyssey is a mix of the lovely, the scary and the strange, and Wright wisely includes all three along Hanna’s journey of self-discovery. Tim Burton and Catherine Hardwicke tried to create such fairytale worlds in Alice In Wonderland and Red Riding Hood, respectively; however, neither of those hollow realms engaged the eye like this wonderful, slightly twisted world that Joe Wright creates with little more than some keen camera framing and some smart location scouting.  He essentially transforms the real world into a fairytale world, just as Hanna sees it. A brilliant tactic for this particular film.

Hanna Movie Saoirse Ronan Hanna Review

Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan

The cast does a stellar job of selling what could’ve otherwise been a hokey mashup of genres. Saoirse Ronan got her big break working with Joe Wright on Atonement, and clearly the pair have a strong bond as far as bringing out the best in one another. Director and star are totally in synch in terms of their vision for the film: Ronan plays Hanna with that wide-eyed and innocent worldly fascination you would imagine Rapunzel had when she eventually escaped the tower. But instead of long flowing hair, Hanna is packing some seriously kick-ass martial arts skills.

Ronan handles the physical challenges of her role so gracefully and easily that it’s hard not to believe that this pale, lanky, teenage girl could snap your neck in real life.  Every action sequence she performs will likely make you either raise your eyebrows or drop your jaw in delight. In short: Ronan makes Angelina Jolie’s Salt performance look downright forced and hammy. This girl has a future doing action movies if she wants to pursue it.

Eric Bana is a solid actor, and here he is, yet again, solid in his performance as Hanna’s father – although his understated affections are a bit too understated to give the father/daughter dynamic a whole lot of poignancy. That’s okay, though: it would be reductive to turn this sort of femme-powered fairytale into a cliche about a young girl and her daddy issues.

There are a couple of familiar faces that turn up in supporting roles, but the two standouts for sure are Tom Hollander (Godsford Park) as Isaacs, Marissa Wiegler’s evil henchman, and young Jessica Barden (Tamara Drewe) as a young girl named Sophie, who Hanna befriends. Barden definitely steals nearly every scene she’s in (bringing needed levity to the fantastical proceedings), and her and Ronan together are better than most teen buddy flicks you’re likely to encounter any time soon.

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Cate Blanchett gets serious in 'Hanna'

Of course by now it’s no revelation to say that Cate Blanchett is one of the best actresses working in the business. Her evil queen/Big Bad Wolf mix of a CIA agent is a purring Southern Belle with impeccable shoes and a neurotic obsession with keeping her perfect teeth clean, while keeping her well-manicured hands bloody. Truly a great villain in the sense of both a fairytale and an action/espionage movie (not an easy mix to pull off).

Finally, the soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers deserves tons of recognition. The Electronica duo’s bass-thumping tunes meld perfectly with some light airy princess melodies, firmly cementing the unorthodox marriage of spy-action and fairytale aesthetic the film is aiming for. The music doesn’t just add to the movie – in this case the music helps make the movie.  Without The Chemical Brothers’ tracks, this would’ve been a different (read: far less enjoyable) experience altogether.

All in all, Hanna is a truly fresh, unique, and exciting genre mashup. In an era where so many filmmakers are “re-imagining” things – ultimately in ways we’ve seen before, or ways that feel more hollow than imaginative – this film is a rare, and welcome, gem.

Check out the trailer for Hanna:

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Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. FIRST!

    Not reading review, but I like that you guys gave it 4/5.

    Can’t wait to see this.

  2. Seeing it tonight at 10pm, glad you guys like it. That makes my purchase much more worthy.

  3. Let me head off questions at the pass and say that I pretty much agree with Kofi’s review. Do know that the trailers/commercials misrepresent this a bit and that’s not a non-stop action fest. Lots of quiet moments and overall it has the feel of a European film.


    • sorry to jack the thread vic but if you have a min pls come over to the facebook group we have something to show you =)

  4. Amazing review Kofi! This makes me see the movie entirely different in a very good way.

    I knew we were in for a lot of action but the way you describe it puts it in a whole new level! :D

  5. I hated the movie. It was no deeper than a music video, which is exactly what this was. It’s like the constructed the scenes atop of the soundtrack, and not vice versa.

    Zero story (is there even a story?)
    Plot holes a plenty
    Super, duper predictable
    Things happen because the director said so

    Overall, this is an EXTREMELY weak movie. EXTREMELY weak. It’s like they put in on the cliches in ones movie. Even the fight scenes look terrible and fake. WOW.

    • I was a bit bored with it myself. My son and I were so disappointed we decided to watch another film; he watched Your Highness and I watched Limitless, and we both liked these films over Hanna.

      • Limitless was easily better… I’ll see Your Highness next week…

      • Trailers misrepresented this as an all out action movie. I still thought it was very good, though.


        • I was aware what kind of film “The American” was going into it, knowing the trailers gave a much different impression to draw in the masses.

          I haven’t seen “Hanna” yet but are we talking about the same marketing approach?

          • Kev,

            There IS action in “Hanna” but it’s not exactly “Die Hard” if you know what I mean.


  6. This was on my must see list when it came out on Netflix, but I just might have to check it out in the theater. Great review, Kofi.

  7. Hit-Girl vs Hanna that would rock. I’m willing to watch this film.

    • Kique,

      Having seen Kick-Ass and this I can tell you that Hanna would destroy Hit Girl. 8)


      • Wow really? Now I more excited to watch this film. I guess Eric Bana is a better trainer than Nicolas Cage.

        • certainly a better actor at least…

  8. I’m not going to read the review, I don’t wont to spoil a thing(although you guys at ScreenRant do good job at not spoiling any thing in your reviews, still…).
    I’ll be watching this at 1:45, so I still got some time to do some reading on ScreenRant.

    • Let me just say that this review did not spoil a thing.

  9. I’m glad this got a good review I’ve been looking forward to it. Nice article Kofi

  10. How come there is now spoiler discussion article for Hanna? I won’t to talk about the movie but I don’t wont to spoil any thing for any body on this article.

    • JRJ,

      We don’t one for every film, just for movies where we believe there’ll be some interest in discussing spoilers. Hanna didn’t seem like it called for it.


      • @Vic

        I too wish there was one for HANNA because I have some questions about it and don’t want to unintentionally spoil it for anyone.

        I watched this yesterday at an afternoon matinee where there was less then a dozen people if that so it was comfortable and the best environment for zero interruptions like crying kids. I can’t see how this movie has gotten such great reviews. Its not a bad film it just felt like it dragged on too often. There was one scene between Hana and another younger character that as a father of 2 girls myself, really bothered me and me ask “what was the point of that”. I’m trying to be as non-spoiler like as I can in my comment.

  11. Technically the movie was executed very well however by the time we got to the dock scene I was seriously scoffing at these guys not bothering to use tasers, tranq. darts, or mace. I also thought the execution of the Moroccan business man was excessive and added nothing to the story. I guess the truly bad must kill everyone in a fairy tale, except the heroine or hero, it’s de rigueur. Though I kind of wondered if this story doesn’t border on myth because of the reduction of the heroine’s father? I guess its saving grace as a fairy tale is the salvation of the heroine ideal her final actions are forced after all. Four star maybe 3½ if your unwilling to let the author tell you that these people, given who some are representing and their actions and goals are true.

  12. Ouch, Ouch and Ouch. This is one time where I totally disagree with a review! Wait, that’s a lie. It’s just the first time in a long time is all.
    This movie did feel like European. I kept nodding off and when I wasn’t doing that, I was wondering what the hell the skin heads had to do with anything and why didn’t Hanna have a picture of the woman she’s supposed to kill. Pretty poor intel by her dad.
    The action was on point and I also agree that the actress could probably be the next female action star if she wanted.
    Overall, I gave the flick a 2 gun salute.

    • Because apparently all Germans know and hang out with skinheads. I did enjoy the movie after I got over the initial shock that it wasn’t what I expected it to be.

  13. This movie is not good. It has a lot of potential but leaves you dissapointed at the end. It starts really good, cool training of the girl, and establishes her really quickly as a dangerous cool character. It also establishes the dad as being highly skilled. But then the second half of the movie takes almost all the action out, gives a kind of brief explanation to why Hanna is so bada$$ (which isn’t needed), and introduces this family to show Hanna connect (I’m guessing that is the reason). Then the movie starts missing a lot of pieces; Like why the whistleing guy is covered in blood when it shows all of the family unharmed? Did he kill that dog? Why does Hanna beat the crap out of a guy so easily just for him to seem like he is handleing his own against her father (who shows multiple time how skilled he is) later who seems way to winded after his run considering all the training and stuff it showed him do earlier in the movie. What happened to the family? The fact that Hanna doesn’t want to hurt anyone anymore seems like it should of been established better, it doesn’t seem like she connects enough or does enough to have such a change. Why does she seem more scared and untrained at the end? I mean I understand the fact that she is young, and the enviornment is so new, and what she learns about herself and her father, etc. but it still seems she was just a regular girl (except the very last thing she does). I think that there had to be more story either edited out, or the story was written very poorly. I do not know a single person who saw this movie who actually enjoyed it. There are parts that are cool, but overall the movie was very lacking in almost every way.

  14. The subtle sub-plot to this story seems to be based on a neo-version of Hitler’s master race theory. Here we have an extremely blonde haired-blue eyed girl who was genetically bred to be the perfect specimen, then highly trained and she just so happened to not be the only one. Her mother is German, some parts of the movie take place in Germany, and there are Neo-Nazi dudes in the movie. It’s pretty obvious it has an underlined connection to that. There were still unanswered questions,for example, why they were REALLY after her so bad and were even willing to kill her. I see a sequel following this; there are some plot holes in this movie that leave it wide open for a sequel/sequels.

  15. I was never once bored in this movie. Had me interested throughout.

  16. This movie was pretty disappointing. I was really looking forward to it but it was just odd and pointless. Usually when I see an action movie that turns out to be a little dissapointing, I start to look deeper to see if perhaps the film was intended to make a statement or some kind of point. I came up empty on this one. The only reoccuring theme that jumped out at me was a sexual undertone. The german chasing her was a pedophile who owned a lounge that appealed to a specific niche shall we say, he mentioned that having a stripper with both male and female parts was “giving the people what they want”, her friend assumed she was a lesbian and then explained without prompt the terms in which she would become a lesbian, the sexual history of her friend’s mom was explored, then Hanna kissed her friend…. it goes on. I don’t know how the dots connect or if they’re meant to. I can’t derive any message or point in the trend. It could have just been a tool to create a disorientation similar to what the character was experiencing- an unfamiliarity with the social norms in the world you are entering. A comment above pointed out the comparison to Hitler’s master race theory, which I thought was a good observation. But all the clues doesn’t really lead anywhere, they’re just there, pointing at each other but not at any conclusion. For me, a thought provoking message would have excused the holes in the story line and the artistic oddities, but since it doesn’t seem to be there… I was left wondering what I just watched and why I watched it.

    • Really? He came across as a pedophile to you? I thought they portrayed him as being gay, not a pedophile.


      • When the character was first introduced the comment was made that the adult woman stripper was a little “too old for him”. It may be a reach but at the time that’s what I thought was being portrayed.

        • Michael,

          Ah, thanks – I must have missed or forgotten that.


  17. I’ve wanted to see this since the first trailer but I gathered it would be really good, or really bad. Given the comments, I’ll probably just wait til it’s on DVD/Blu.

    I really love the Chem Bros though so I’m glad to see the nod to them in the review. During the trailer, I said to my wife “the music is really good!” Then at the end – soundtrack by Chem Bros. “Oh, that explains it.” :)

  18. I took this in last night and was quite pleased with it. Tom Hollander’s Issacs was genuinely disturbing for me. Questionable sexual preferences aside, his relentlessness and sadistic nature was creepy. (When he whispers in German, “Its the sandman. Go back to sleep.” I was pressed back into my chair.)

    I love Joe Wright’s long tracking shots (when Eric Bana gets off the bus) but was not a fan of the excessive shaky cam (used when Cate Blanchett is running). I’m glad there was a variety but preferred the steadier shots.

    Two things that I didn’t like: 1. Saorise Ronan’s constantly blank face. I know that she is acclimated to this hard lifestyle, but killing a buck and killing a man aren’t exactly the same thing. 2. Blanchett’s Southern accent was constantly grating on my brain when she talked. It seemed almost a caricature of what a drawl actually is.

    Great review Kofi. I enjoyed the movie as well.

  19. Hmm. I was happy that it scored 4/5 but disappointed when you didn’t explain why Hanna lost one point in your eyes. Everything you wrote seemed to be in glowing terms. What didn’t you like, Kofi?

  20. If you wanna really waste two hours of your tiime then this is the flick four you. The style in which this movie was filmed was very dull. Once in awhile they would try to spice it up by adding some groovy late 60′s style of spins that make you sick to your stomach. The characters had no emotion and the fights were cheesy. I was told this movie was kinda like a fairytale meets James Bond. That was an outright fib. This film copys a hundred others and takes the worse from each of them. Plot sucked and made no sense as to WHY the characters did what they did. The ending matches any of the worst endings I can think of, and doesnt answer any questions you may have except for, “Is it over yet?” Very tough to stay awake, IT WAS DULL! Waste of money even for an early show. If this ever come on cable I will just shut the whole box off. This gets 2 stars out of 10 for two semi funny one liners in the whole movie. I say skip this one.

  21. great review Kofi, spot on in my opinion. I just saw it tonight, one of the best and more unique films I’ve seen in a while. It teeters on the edge of being an art film. The sound track was amazing and like you said really adds to the movie, almost like an invisible character.

  22. I guess the only good thing about this movie for me is that, when it comes out on DVD, I’ll have an alternative to valium when I’m having trouble falling asleep. To me, the only good thing in this film is Cate Blanchett and how evil and freaky her character is. Other then that, Hanna should stay in Montana.

  23. Highly enjoyable film. Good review!

  24. Hanna is a terrible film. The characters are all 2 dimensional at a push. Your review fails to mention the glaring omissions in the plot as to why any of the people do anything at any particular time in the film. The Germans were just ridiculous!

  25. I am amazed by how polarized views are on this film. Still haven’t seen it, but still determined to do so. Saoirse Ronan has been brilliant in her earlier work, and, yes, I have seen The Way Back, Peter Weir’s flag for freedom.

    Just gonna hafta wait and see, I guess.

  26. I agrree with Nialls comments, terrible movie. Started of well though but boredom soon set in.

  27. What can I say about Joe Wright’s Hanna. Well what an amazing film, exuberating, well crafted and pulsing with energy. It’s a gripping chase movie all the way through – the Music by the Chemical Brothers is brilliant- with Hanna’s theme, The Devil is in the Details, Container Park and Escape Wavefold, just to name a few. The atmosphere is brilliant something like eXistenZ, with unusual sometimes freaky scenery: from the snows of the artic circle to Morocco, Container Parks and of course the abandoned Children’s Theme Park in Germany. The German accents are well done by those who aren’t even German by birth. The whistling song is so addictive, I’ve been whistling it for days. The acting by Saoirse Ronan , Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett are all very good. I want to see this film again and get the Chemical Brothers Soundtrack.