Royal blood doesn’t always wear a crown. Hanna is an incomprehensible pile of gibberish with great credentials: Joe Wright, who directed Atonement, reunites with one of its stars, Saoirse Ronan, the phenomenally talented teenager with the unpronounceable name, and the cast also includes Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana. The result is unbearable junk. What went wrong? Just about everything.
In the title role, Ms. Ronan plays a girl raised in a primitive cabin in the frozen wilderness near the Arctic Circle. In the first shot, she slaughters and disembowels an elk. No wonder she dreams of exploring the world beyond arrows and igloos. But something is wrong with Hanna. Her father (Mr. Bana) is an ex-CIA man protecting her from unknown perils, training her to be a perfect assassin with home-schooling from an encyclopedia and a book of fairy tales. When the time comes to send her away, he promises to meet her in Berlin (huh?) and jumps naked into the icy water, giving Mr. Bana another chance to wear as little as the law allows.
When Hanna crawls her way out of an air duct, she’s in the middle of the Moroccan desert, pursued by a vicious, cold, mechanical redhead (Cate Blanchett with the worst Southern accent in the history of film), a C.I.A. operative who, years ago, killed Hanna’s mother and spent the rest of her career tracking down Hanna and her father to finish the job. For reasons unclear, they seem to be threats to U.S. security.
Are you still with me? While Dad strips down to swim in the ocean, Hanna mysteriously acquires a Bedouin robe and walks all the way to what looks like Afghanistan, speaking perfect Arabic. (Delusional geography is just one of the problems.) For a girl who has never left the forest, the world of electric teakettles, television and hotel swimming pools is a shock as she is captured and hunted by a gay assassin in tight shorts who drives fountain pens through his victim’s jugular veins. Hanna stays in contact with Dad through postcards, although they have neither stamps nor postmarks. From Morocco, she makes her way to Spain on a motorcycle in time for a musical flamenco number, leaps from the tops of storage tanks wearing only sneakers and hops a barge, leaving a string of corpses behind. Her goal: to reach Berlin and find her father in a theme park replete with a Ferris wheel, dinosaurs and a Hansel and Gretel house run by an old clown who feeds her raw eggs. It takes almost the entire 105-minute running time to find out who (or what) Hanna is and why Ms. Blanchett wants to kill her, but if you are a true masochist who will sit through anything until the projector stops running, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Hanna is contrived, pretentious and not worth seeing even for the perverse pleasure of watching first-rate talents make second-rate fools of themselves. Maybe the movie was shot during Ms. Blanchett’s acclaimed stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which might explain why she plays a machine gun-toting European secret agent who talks like Scarlett O’Hara, but not why she has an obsession with flossing and brushing her teeth before every homicide. Nothing else in the demented script by Seth Lochhead and David Farr would make one lick of sense even to Charlie Kaufman.
Running time 105 minutes
Written by Seth Lochead and David Farr
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett