Brothers Grimm meet Coen brothers in 'Hanna'

April 19, 2011
Hanna: 16-year-old Hanna goes out into the world for the first time - and has to battle for her life.

Sorry, Miley, but if I am looking for a heroine named Hanna for my little girl, I'm heading here.

Isolated deep in a German forest with her father Erik (played by Eric Bana), the eponymous lead of "Hanna" is taught, in feral-like fashion, to defend herself in any possible situation and survive on her own if anything were to happen to her father.

We soon learn the reason for this extreme approach to child rearing - Erik is a former CIA operative who suddenly went dark, carrying with him some very incriminating information.

Once Hanna feels she is ready, her father allows her to reveal their location to CIA top brass Marissa Wiegler (played by Cate Blanchett), who stands to lose quite a bit if Hanna and Erik reveal their secret.

While filmmakers have recently been high on modernizing fairy tales to resemble melodramatic teen romances ("Beastly," "Red Riding Hood"), in slips "Hanna," which feels more synched to what those old-timey authors may have had in mind.

And just like those fantastical tales of yore, "Hanna" is filled with oddities one does not expect in action films. It's as if the Brothers Grimm met the Coen brothers. Tangents into various cultures, asides involving antagonists that are as cartoonish as they are menacing, and moments of unexpected levity all punctuate the pulse-quickening plot line.

It's even harder to expect when you consider director Joe Wright is more accustomed to corsets ("Pride & Prejudice") and aristocrats ("Atonement") than crime fighters and assassins. He packs the film with inventive camera angles, stunning locales, and a sweet tracking shot during a fight scene, when most directors would edit it with blink-like frequency, and coats it with a driving synth score courtesy of the Chemical Brothers.

Like Matt Damon in the original "Bourne" film, Saoirse Ronan is deceptively effective as Hannah. As previously demonstrated in "Atonement" and "The Lovely Bones," we fully expect her to do the heavy lifting with the dramatic aspects of the story, but her skilled agility as an action heroine strikes you like a right hook.

And Blanchett seems to relish her role as the Big Bad Wolf to Hanna's Red Riding Hood ("My, what big teeth she has."). She's a formidable nemesis for the young girl, and you can almost see her menacingly twirling her handlebar mustache, had she been given one.

It may take a few scenes to settle into "Hanna's" unique universe, but once you do, you'll most likely find something to admire and live happily ever after.