FILM REVIEW: Hanna (12A)

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Opposites sometimes attract.

Taiwanese director Ang Lee wasn’t an obvious choice to director Brokeback Mountain, an epic love story set in 1960s Wyoming, yet East met Wild West with dazzling results.

Now director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) tries his hand at the action genre with this fast-paced thriller about a girl with extraordinary powers.

The London-born film-maker imprints his distinctive artistic vision on Seth Lochhead and David Farr’s script.

He conjures a mood of impending doom as the conflicted characters traverse the globe before a climactic showdown that hammers home the fairy-tale allegory.

However, aesthetic concerns occasionally get in the way of a jolly good romp and consequently, Hanna sits nervously between two distinctive audiences - arthouse and multiplex - and will disappoint both.

Sixteen-year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives in snowbound Scandinavia with her father Erik (Eric Bana), honing the fighting skills she will need for the perilous mission that lies ahead: to kill ruthless CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett).

“She won’t stop until you’re dead or she is,” warns Erik as his protegee improves her strength and speed, hunting local wildlife with her trusty bow.

“So be sure,” he adds, “because I won’t be there to hold your hand.”

Once she is trained and primed for action, Hanna bids farewell to her father, whispering his mantra: “Adapt or die”.

She embarks on her quest to kill Wiegler with trained assassin Isaacs (Tom Hollander) and his henchmen on her trail.

En route, Hanna meets hippie mother Rachel (Olivia Williams), her despairing husband Sebastian (Jason Flemyng) and their sassy teenage daughter, Sophie (Jessica Barden), who is at that difficult age when everything her parents say is wrong.

“What did your Mum die of?” Sebastian asks Hanna tenderly, having learned of the girl’s loss many years ago.

“Three bullets,” replies the eponymous heroine matter-of-factly.

Hanna plays out a Bourne Identity-style game of cat and mouse between the plucky teenager and her pursuers, including a breathless chase through a ship container yard that benefits from Paul Tothill’s energetic editing.

Wright cannot resist directorial flourishes so he shoots a sequence at Berlin airport in an apparently single take, reaching a crescendo with Erik brawling with four knife-wielding assailants.

Ronan captures both the steeliness and vulnerability of her girl on the cusp of womanhood, while Blanchett relishes her role as the villainess with an oral hygiene fixation.

Williams and Flemyng are poorly served, considering the amount of scene time afforded their characters, while Barden, who was hysterical in Tamara Drewe, scene-steals merrily here too.

A soundtrack courtesy of The Chemical Brothers pumps up the volume and our adrenaline levels, bringing a sense of urgency to the film that is lacking in Wright’s direction.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: May 6 (UK & Ireland), 111 mins