By Erin Fox
Deep in the snowy wilderness of the Arctic Circle, a young assassin, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), is trained to be prepared for anything. Her lessons include hunting, dialect, combat, stealth and encyclopedic knowledge — all of which contribute to her goal of being a sharp and elusive killing machine.
Her teacher and father, Erik (Eric Bana), is an agent on the run who harbours a secret he cannot share even with his daughter. Once she feels her training is complete, Hanna initiates contact with the agency searching for Erik and the pair are forced to part ways until they can safely be together again — minus the pervasive agent constantly on their trail, Marissa (Cate Blanchett). Though incredibly well-taught, Hanna’s flee from her Arctic home and through new cultural territory is a confusing and difficult journey in which every skill in her arsenal may not be enough to deceive her pursuers. Despite her training, Hanna learns that there are some experiences you can not prepare for.
The film’s trailer may suggest that Hanna is a combat-based action flick laced with mystery and espionage — and it is — but it’s also a whole lot more. Loaded with symbolic imagery and driven by a diversely appropriate soundtrack, Hanna is the story of a sheltered youth and the importance of empathy, trust and honesty in a cruel but exciting world. After leaving the safety of her arctic home, she is thrust into a world of things she has never experienced. Her comfort level with the environments she encounters is cleverly hinted at through the film’s colour palette; she is on top of her game in environments dominated by cool colours and sterile compositions like her snowy home, but her skills waver as she enters the warm reds and browns of the desert and a Moroccan village. Her saving grace is a friendship she forms with another girl her age, Sophie (Jessica Barden), who represents Hanna’s intellectual opposite. Though intrinsically different, the two compliment each other and provide the film with a necessary emotional quality. Hanna’s human qualities are awakened by Sophie’s colourful personality, and it is through her that Hanna begins to learn that there is more to life than just surviving.
As the film’s tone bounces between action thriller and emotionally-aware drama, so to does its soundtrack. Energized techno-rock accompanies the major action sequences, but is challenged by the haunting tinkering of a piano, cultural music and classical scores during the lulls in violence. Sounds from within the film’s world contribute to the tone of the piece as well, from the recurring menacing whistle of a hired gun to the arbitrary wailing of a homeless man. The diverse nature of the soundtrack embellishes Hanna’s multi-tonal concept — and rightfully so, as Hanna herself has never heard music until her flight from her frozen abode.
Beautifully designed and emotionally conscious, this is more than your run-of-the-mill action flick. Full of interesting themes, flecked with humour and carefully shot, Hanna is a treat for the senses as well as the mind. The universal, human quality of the film juxtaposed with intense hand-to-hand action will please a number of demographics, making this a great film to see with friends, family and significant others alike. Behind all of the flash and fight, Hanna has a heart.