Joe Wright's latest film, Hanna triumphantly launches the British director out of the comfort-zone he had created with all these straight dramas - Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and The Soloist - he's made before it. However with all the nods to Leon and surrealist imagery he implores, one has to ask, does it all work?
Hanna tells the story of - that's right - Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan), a 16 year old who lives with her father (Eric Bana) out in the harsh wilderness of rural Finland, where she's being trained into the ultimate assassin. When unleashed into the real world, she seems hell-bent on killing the mysterious CIA agent, Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett). Obviously there's more to the story I will not otherwise reveal in this review, but suffice to say all is not what it seems.
I was less than kind about Saoirse Ronan in last year's god awful adaptation of The Lovely Bones, but she manages to redeem herself tenfold in the title role of Hanna. Watching her experiencing so many aspects of life, which we would all take for granted, was profoundly touching. Some of these moments even resulted in some of the more light-hearted parts of the film, for instance her experiencing the wonders of electricity, through a simple light, to a kettle boiling and a even being on. She was thoroughly likeable in the role, and globe trotted around our world like Alice would through Wonderland - albeit with more guns, bows and arrows.
Furthermore her scenes with the English family - featuring the brilliant Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams - she encounters managed to ground the film and giving it a more tender side than I was personally expecting, next to the intense, impressive, highly stylised action pieces.
The more villainous characters were the most fun however, Cate Blanchett's CIA operative being portrayed as a modern day wicked witch, with one particularly cracking moment in the final showdown between her and Hanna emphasising as much. Above all else though, the stand out character was the sheer surreal performance of Tom Hollander's Issacs, a strange German hitman with a couple of skinhead Neo-Nazis for hapless henchmen. Look out for one genuinely creepy scene where he refers to himself as 'The Sandman'. It's as if it's ripped straight from the League of Gentlemen, I swear.
As mentioned briefly, Hanna was a breathtaking film, visually. From the cold, sweeping shots of the Finnish landscapes - slightly reminiscent of the opening to George Clooney's slow burning character drama, The American - introduced at the start of the film, to the almost fairytale wanderings through a Grimm amusement park in the final act, its outlandish flow was completely seamless. The fairytale parallels themselves serve as fun ways to take a film which could so easily have been just another Bourne knock-off and presented something actually quite refreshing and almost original.
Choosing The Chemical Brothers to compose the soundtrack was also a stroke of genius on Joe Wright's part. If anything, I got the impression Wright shot certain scenes - such as Hanna escaping this impenetrable fortress midway through the film - with the bassy overtones of The Chemical Brothers' music in mind. Definitely playing out at times like one of their own music videos.
Despite the slow opening and some, all too convenient, plot twists - maybe even verging into similar footsteps of Angelina Joile's completely naff, Salt - largely the whole film is a complete treat, even leaving certain aspects of the plot open for a potential sequels. However as movies like Leon show, sometimes these things are best left untouched.
Bold, refreshing, tense, explosive and dreamy. Hanna delivers much more than what was originally expected of it. Joe Wright has created a charming, curious character portrayed wonderfully by Saoirse Ronan. A modern fairytale thriller? It makes sense in my head. Shame they couldn't spell her name right*...
Hanna is in cinemas everywhere now.
*My little sister is named Hannah for the record.