An action-packed spy thriller on the surface, 'Hanna' is actually a cleverly stylish coming-of-age fairytale. It follows a young girl on a quest to discover her origins and the reasons for her existence, the seemingly normal questions we all ask ourselves at around the same age. Only, the story takes that ordinary curiosity and couples it with a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that spans north Africa and Germany. In her journey, alone but exceedingly well-trained, she discovers that the world can be both fascinatingly beautiful and dreadfully ugly.
It's been a while since we've seen something this stirringly original and creatively exciting. The script from newcomers Seth Lochhead and David Farr delivers emotional drama along with exhilarating thrills, while never missing a beat. Much like the stimulating electro-score from The Chemical Brothers, there's a kind of rhythmic movement to the narrative that's quite engaging. It's established early on in a scene with Hanna bowhunting an elk. The entire sequence play out with nearly a single word being spoken, but we quickly surmise her personality, determination, and specialized skill set. The girl has a naïve, angelic face, but is actually an agile hunter and a surprisingly coldblooded marksman.
In less than five minutes, just as the entire screen goes blood red with the girl's name written in gigantic lettering, viewers are captivated by what they've witnessed and want to learn more. Director Joe Wright brings that pulsating, kinetic rhythm to the screen by constantly moving the camera angle and repositioning our point of view. In effect, he creates an edge-of-your-seat atmosphere, one which keeps the audience guessing, despite the answers being fairly clear and obvious. Wright made a terrific impression with 'Pride & Prejudice (2005)' and 'Atonement' a few years back, and here, he dazzles once again.
At the center of it all are devastating performances by two very gifted actors who are marvelously committed to their roles. Saoirse Ronan is the titular character, who is both on the run as well as on the hunt. She's an amazing young talent, carefully balancing the cold exterior of a skilled assassin with the inner vulnerability of an inexperienced child. She's strikingly believable while also reminding us she's an invention of make-believe. Matching her every step is another killer, also on the hunt while equally on the defensive in Marissa Wiegler, played convincingly by the stunning Cate Blanchett. She, too, is cold and methodical, but in a very real and terrifying way. And in Blanchett's accomplished hands, Marissa is also intriguingly vulnerable and damaged.
'Hanna' doesn't come equipped with any surprises or twists — everything in the plot is fairly easy to figure out. We know Eric Bana's Erik Heller is keeping secrets from Hanna, and Marissa's henchman (Tom Hollander) will eventually find the girl across continents. And it's no revelation that the two women are bound to confront each other sooner or later. The film isn't about pulling any punches, rather, it's a straightforward, highly-entertaining action thriller with strong coming-of-age undertones, and it's all the better for it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Hanna' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc, which also contains a digital copy for portable devices. It's housed inside the standard blue keepcase and a cardboard slipcover with the film's title embossed. Viewers can enjoy a few internet-based previews before being taken straight to the main menu with the normal selection, full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Hanna' debuts with a beautiful, near-reference 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1) that truly shines from its opening moments to the closing credits.
Practically everything on the screen is distinctly detailed and precise. Whether we're looking at Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett or Hanna's pelt jackets, individual hairs are unmistakable with appreciable lifelike texture. Fine lines around foliage, the wood cabin or inside the blue family van are quite distinct and remarkable. Deep, dark shadows or poorly-lit sequences do little to obscure background information as all objects in the distance remain plainly visible and terrifically well-defined. Contrast is deliberately toned down but crisp and stable, giving the photography a cold, steely appearance which adds splendidly to the plot's grim atmosphere. The palette is affected somewhat by the cinematography, where secondary hues are heavily restrained, but primaries remain bright and accurately rendered. Black levels are, for the most part, true and inky, providing the image with a great deal of dimensionality. There are a few moments, however, where they lose a bit of their luster and flatten the picture slightly.
All in all, the newly-minted transfer looks spectacular on Blu-ray.
'Hanna' also arrives with an excellent and terrifically satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that doesn't quite give the system a serious workout, but will keep it thumping for the majority of the movie's runtime.
Much of the design's brilliance and engaging presentation is thanks to an original, breathtaking score from The Chemical Brothers. Every time their electro-music fills the front soundstage, imaging feels all-encompassing and far-reaching with perfect, clean fidelity. Dynamics are rendered with wonderful distinct detail as the upper frequencies maintain rich, room-penetrating clarity. The low-end is highly-responsive and effective with the best moment of deep, phenomenal, omnidirectional bass coming from the scene when agents raid the cabin.
Amid all this constant wave of frontal commotion, dialogue and conversations remain perfectly audible and intelligible. Pans and movement between channels are seamless and fluid, generating a very gratifying soundfield that's more captivating and enchanting than it is immersive. There are a several instances of discrete rear activity, of course, mostly musical bleeds or light atmospherics. But the real show in this lossless mix comes from an anterior soundscape that's fantastically enjoyable.
'Hanna' hits Blu-ray with a decent set of supplements that dig deeper into the mystery of the film's little assassin and the overall production.
From director Joe Wright, 'Hanna' is a wonderfully engaging coming-of-age fairytale cleverly tucked inside a gripping espionage thriller. Filled with marvelous performances by Cate Blanchett and the young but highly-talented Saoirse Ronan, the film comes with a rather straightforward plot, but there's hardly a dull moment as Wright moves the narrative briskly with lots of visual style and a rhythmic, spellbinding pace. The movie debuts on Blu-ray with excellent, near-reference audio and video, which only heighten the film's already engrossing storyline. Supplements are somewhat disappointing, but make for an interesting watch nonetheless. This is a highly-recommended watch for fans of both the movie and espionage thrillers in general.