Hanna’s memorable quality is its action, shot with such a nonchalant, casual quality yet never giving up its intensity, driving brutality or physical normalcy. Actually, normalcy sums it up, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) raised on a diet of violence by her rogue CIA agent father. It’s all she’s ever known, her fisticuffs and martial arts effortless.
Part of it is pure performance, the other part carefully constructed and filmed character. Joe Wright brings flair to the lens, an at times standard directorial effort, other moments a byzantine brilliance. The camera will swerve, split, rotate, cycle, and zoom with grace, all to ensure Hanna is in motion during a number of elaborate chase sequences. Wright even returns to his grandest achievement from Atonement, a master shot through a train station overloaded with intensity and fear.
Hanna constructs this story about Ronan, ever so capable a young actress, on the run for reasons unknown from the CIA. Loaded with only her knowledge and information granted to her by her father, Hanna globe trots her way through the continents, a dominating Cate Blanchett always a step behind.
The script comes from the mind of David Farr and Seth Lochhead, seemingly sure in how the narrative should be structured up until the disappointing reveal everything was rushing towards. Hanna’s minimal life story is the reason why she is spending her early teenage years under pressure from government bureaucracy, the reveal lacking the punch required.
Maybe that’s why is all seems skimmed over, a distraction-focused fight scene inserted deliberately to cover up Hanna’s one downfall, and then a stunning location shoot to finish it off. German assassins are recruited to bring her in, whistling a melody by the Chemical Brothers that is nothing short of infectious yet equally deadly given its use. It’s a departure from the ferocious techno pounding, subtle and smooth, much like this grand film and its star.
Everything brought Hanna to life, from a broad selection of cameras, lenses, film stocks, and digital. Whatever the case, the post phase brought it all together for a consistent look, pale, flat, and lacking firm texture. This is not one for detail, just style. Close-ups are lackluster in their presence and the fur jackets that will prove a constant in the opening 15 or so minutes need another layer of precision to impress.
It’s not a total strikeout, Universal’s competent AVC encoding getting the job done. Any grain is well resolved, enough that it hardly makes a minor presence. Rapid cutting action and blazing brawls are brought over to the realm of hi-def without any image break-up, the number of punches and camera movements making that even more impressive.
Hanna is gifted with rich black levels, preserving an acceptable, pleasing depth you otherwise wouldn’t have. Contrast will waver dependent on the scene, always appropriate and well meaning.
Into the realm of saturation, Hanna is merely meant to annoy with its static looks. Those chill blues and fire-driven oranges are impossibly familiar, sapping some of the visual energy from the piece. It will break free from its confines for a bit, some open plain deserts warming things up, but those are few. It still wants viewers to believe fluorescent lighting casts a dim teal onto people. How annoyingly unoriginal.
Audio designers take note: This is how it’s done. Hanna is alive and in all channels with this beautiful, powerful DTS-HD mix that simply doesn’t miss anything. It pushes the stereo channels for all their worth, mixing them into every action and place. Dialogue travels as much as bullets. Interiors glow with echoes, the inside of CIA offices capturing each click of Blanchett’s heels, the enveloping effect remarkable.
Even the master shot as Eric Bana wanders through the station is brought to vivid life, travelers passing by and motion delivered as object are passed. Ronan will do the same as she stumbles into an Arab marketplace, the chatter almost enlightening to the moment.
It’s not shy with the heavy stuff either, gunfire punchy and the debris resulting crisp. Glass shatters, wood splinters, and objects fly during a hotel fire feast, arguably the highlight of a non-stop sonic assault. Bass is shocking as it plows right into the listener, the soundtrack never shy about forcing someone to take notice of it. At 18:26, you’ll be blasted by chest-compressing power as a beat kicks off.
And by “kicks off?” It might as well literally be kicking you. It’s that firm, deep, and tight. Fantastic material.
There’s quite a bit to the extras menu, although not much with substance. An alternate ending adds a mild level of closure, but only material that would have soured the forceful final frames. A small array of other deleted material follows. Adapt or Die is the making-of, better than the norm if static. Central Intelligence Allegory focuses on the organization and its inner-workings. Chemical Reaction details the soundtrack, including that catchy little diddy that will stick in your head for days.
Anatomy of a Scene is a commentary over the escape sequence. The Wide World of Hanna is an all-too-brief bit on the locations. A promo is a throwaway, while the commentary from director Joe Wright is not. D-Box support and BD-Live access end the extras menu without much to offer.