Review: Hanna Blu-ray

Hanna Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Joe Wright | CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Williams
RELEASE DATE: 9/6/2011 | PRICE: Blu-ray $34.98, DVD $29.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, alternate ending; BD adds additional featurettes, digital copy
SPECS: PG-13 | 111 min. | Action thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Hanna movie scene

Saoirse Ronan is ready for action in Hanna.

At once intelligent and exploitative, Hanna plays out as a thinking man’s — or woman’s — thriller-actioner that eventually goes beyond the typical genre outings to deliver the goods with panache and unexpected poignancy.

Director Joe Wright, best known for such refined but powerful works as Pride and Prejudice and The Soloist, enlists his Oscar-nominated, otherworldy looking Atonement star Saoirse Ronan (The Way Back) for the title role.

Ms. Ronan’s Hanna is a teen raised in the wilds of Finland by her mysterious father (Eric Bana, The Time Traveler’s Wife), who has been training his daughter in survival skills and hand-to-hand combat since she was a baby. Hanna is unleashed by Dad, who’s revealed to have a background in the intelligence community, into the real world with the assignment to face off against Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett, Robin Hood), an obsessive and conniving covert agent. Hanna’s cat-and-mouse assignment to pin down Marissa while unraveling her own mysterious history takes her to such exotic locales as the villages of Northern Africa and to the streets of post-punk Berlin, dodging bad guys and bullets along the way.

Hanna’s art house film pedigree may have played a part in keeping it from being a box-office hit (the movie grossed $40 million in the U.S.), but that’s the very thing that puts it eons above its genre brethren. A globe-hopping mission, duplicitous government agents, thrilling chases and woman empowerment themes are nothing new at the multiplex in recent years, but Hanna filters the elements through an artistic gaze that’s gorgeously photographed, inventively staged and wonderfully acted by all involved.

Those anxiously awaiting the next Bourne film or Bond adventure won’t be disappointed by the artful and exciting antics of Hanna and company.

The Blu-ray’s generous assortment of bonus features is led by a well-prepared commentary (or, at least, it sounds like it is) by director Wright, who speaks greatly of his wish to serve up his slick Euro-thriller like a modern-day Brothers Grimm-styled fairy tale, complete with  an innocent little girl (Saoirse) from the forest who’s sent away by her loving father (Bana), who wants her to learn the ways of the big, bad world and defeat an evil queen (Blanchett).

Other bonuses on the disc include four brief featurettes that are exclusive to the Blu-ray, including one focusing on the electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers and their pulsating score for the film. Like the other featurettes, it’s an informative if relatively unremarkable piece that’s noteworthy in that the musicians never appear on camera and only talk about their work in voiceover.

There are also a few deleted scenes — four minutes worth — that fill in some story logistics, such as how certain characters got from Point A to Point B or how they obtained certain information vital to the story. We learn that they were excised in deference to time and to enhance the fairy tale-esque tone of the film.

Particularly insightful from a production standpoint is an “Anatomy of a Scene” bit detailing the work that went into Hanna’s dizzying escape from a subterranean spy headquarters. Carefully storyboarded and invigoratingly executed, it perfectly exemplifies Wright’s wish to show that his young heroine moves “slightly faster than your eye.”


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.