Fight Like a Girl

For 60 heart-pounding minutes — as bleached-blonde Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”) jumps around in a world of shiny CIA facilities, abandoned trains and enormous carnival statues — “Hanna” is one glorious fairytale world of surrealism and danger. Fans whirl, people run into animal’s mouths and playgrounds become murder sites as director Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Atonement”) crafts a movie with the look of a period piece but the pace and soundtrack of a thriller.

Unfortunately, “Hanna” is 90 minutes long.

The last half hour brings with it the movie’s ultimate weakness: the dawning realization that there’s no time to tie up the loose ends, and even worse, that what the viewer thought were loose ends building to a plot twist are actually non sequiturs.

“Hanna” is supposedly a story of female empowerment; the titular character grows up in the snowy wilderness, trained by ex-CIA father Erik (Eric Bana) to one day kill his former colleague Marisa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). When the CIA becomes aware of her existence, she begins a killing spree as she flees to Munich to meet up with her father and, per the synopsis, find “startling revelations about her humanity.”

But both Wiegler’s evil deed and Hanna’s reason for existence are revealed halfway in, leaving viewers anticipating a surprise ending and more plot depth than the movie ever delivers. Instead, we’re confronted with seemingly irrelevant points. Why is Erik swimming around in one scene and then suddenly walking around nicely dressed, killing people in the subway? (Bana spends most of the movie either shirtless or looking dashing.) Why does Hanna really, really have to get to Wilhelm Grimm’s house, other than the fact that Wright likes fairy tales? Who is that man that supposedly knows her? Why does he look like a dwarf?

Wright tries to compensate by interspersing elements of the typical coming-of-age story (Hanna sneaks off to party with a Spanish boy — and then attacks him) and not-so-subtle warnings about technology. She muses about how she’s “heard” about electricity, and then quickly goes batty when she can’t turn off the TV. Quick, dizzying close-ups on whirring fans, beeping electric kettles and a flickering light are interspersed with a pounding score by the Chemical Brothers to show how unnatural and frightening our “civilized” world can be.

But none of these anecdotes can make up for the lack of satisfying backstory. Ronan is appropriately odd traipsing around in an orange jumpsuit, while Blanchett’s power suits and teeth-baring smiles fit the dastardly Wiegler. But their melodramatic meeting convinces no one of their supposed decades-long hatred of each other.

In the end, the movie’s greatest strength lies in pure technical appeal and its ability to create a fantasy world in tones of sleek grey and saturated color. Scenes are shot from many different perspectives: Hanna’s, so we experience first-hand the slimy CIA agents. The agents’, so we see what they would have as Hanna points a gun directly at the screen. We see what looks like camera footage and both extreme close-ups of body parts and landscape pans to show the desolation of the wilderness. Wright has created an intense and gorgeous world — too bad the story doesn’t match up. (B)

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