Keith Uhlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
Dir. Joe Wright. 2011. PG-13. 111mins. Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett.
The opening images of Joe Wright’s impressively mounted thriller are so deliberately serene — gorgeous snow-white landscapes, swans napping on an icy lake — that you know something’s going to go down. Soon enough, the eponymous young girl (Ronan) materializes from behind a tree and fixes her stone-cold gaze on a reindeer. She shoots an arrow into it and gives chase. The beast collapses. She points a gun at its belly. Then, with frightening impassiveness, she whispers, “I just missed your heart.” Bang!
This striking scene is echoed during the climax of Hanna; in between, we’re treated to a daffy tale of espionage that always engages the senses while, tellingly, leaving the heart untouched. Thanks to her survivalist father (Bana), Hanna knows how to live off the land, but her only experience of the larger world comes from the distant knowledge provided by books (many of them fairy tales). When given the opportunity to leave the nest, Hanna jumps at it — all she has to do is push a red button on a satellite transponder.
Hell follows in the form of Marissa (Blanchett, off in her own bizarro world), a Texan CIA agent harboring a bloody grudge. She’s the big bad wolf to Hanna’s Red Riding Hood, something Wright hammers home in a half-laughable, half-sublime image of the former emerging from a literal wolf’s mouth. Subtlety is not this movie’s strong suit; even the terrific Chemical Brothers score pounds your nerves a bit more than it should. Yet Wright’s filmmaking is continuously distinctive (nearly as id-unhinged in its all-on-location stylistic as Zack Snyder’s wacko digi-stravaganza Sucker Punch), and he orchestrates several bravura action sequences, most notably a single-take brawl in a Berlin underground station. Heart missed, but spine tingled.—Keith Uhlich