Hanna opens with an act of raw brutality, albeit a necessary brutality, which sets the tone for the rest of the film. Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and her father Erik (Eric Bana) live in a small cabin in the middle of Finland. We know nothing about them, except that Erik is training Hanna for something. They fight, have target practices, and Hanna repeats the obviously false story of her life over and over again. At night, she delicately thumbs through a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the only child’s possession she has. She falls asleep reading it by candlelight.

Director Joe Wright keeps the viewer in the dark for a while, allowing the story to methodically play out like a great mystery. We only learn things about Hanna and Erik as the characters around them do, and often in a not very pleasant way. Once Hanna decides she’s ready to leave the nest, Erik produces a transponder that alerts CIA agent (it’s always the CIA, isn’t it?) Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) to their location. After a several harrowing action scenes, Hanna ends up in Morocco. There, she hooks up with a New Age couple (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng) and their children, Sophie and Miles. They half-heartedly wonder what a young girl is doing on her own in a foreign country, but Sophie impresses them with her maturity.

It seems that in most films, when young girls meet they instantly become worst enemies or best friends. Here, Sophie and Hanna become friends. When we first meet her, Sophie is obsessed with “bling” and large breast implants, but she eventually becomes more concerned with introducing Hanna to girlish clothes and Spanish boys. Everyone should have a friend like that. It’s always nice when a character turns out to be nicer than you expect. They share secrets late at night, providing Hanna with some long desired peer interaction, the kind you can’t get when you’re stuck in the woods with only your father for a companion.

Ronan has a difficult task. She must carry an action film nearly by herself, and she does so magnificently. Hanna’s no rube. However, she’s a girl who knows everything and nothing about the world around her, and discovers things in wide-eyed amazement.  She speaks several languages, but a light switch leaves her speechless. She can explain music, yet has never heard it. She knows how many muscles it takes to execute a kiss, but heaven help the young man who mistakes that explanation for consent. Hanna possesses no pretense. When asked what her mother died of, she replies, “three bullets.” She says this because it’s the truth. Raised without prejudice for anything but government agents, she gives herself to every new experience she encounters.

Hanna ultimately can’t escape the harsh environment from whence she came. Erik and Marissa chase Hanna and each other, leaving a lot of destruction and bloodshed in their wake.  No one’s motivations for this are clear; Erik wants to meet up with Hanna, and Marissa simply wants them both dead. She hires an old mercenary friend in Morocco to find them. Don’t the antagonists in all the best espionage movies have a friend who runs a seedy bar in Morocco? Blanchett plays Marissa with an icy coolness masking the inner chaos at her ex-rival’s sudden reappearance.  She deserves kudos for showing restraint in what could have easily been a scenery-chewing character. Bana does well as a man who has a plan but no idea how it will end. Underneath the action is a pounding Chemical Brothers soundtrack that drives the pulse of both the characters and the viewer.

Wright has said that he wanted this film to be a fairy tale, and the elements are there: the blue-eyed, fair-haired princess, her outdoorsman father, and the red-headed with that seeks to destroy her, and a lot of violence and blood. The original Grimm’s Fairy Tales were darker than most people realize. Their  rendezvous place belongs to a jester and resembles the inside of a gingerbread house. The bleak cinematography mirrors the characters’ situations. Only Hanna gets a bit of color in her life, if only in brief moments. There’s one hand held shot that shakes way too much, otherwise he doesn’t abuse it.

Hanna, unfortunately, has its weaknesses. There are large government buildings with inexplicable underground tunnels that seem to serve absolutely no purpose but to allow the protagonist to escape undetected. Blanchett’s accent alternates between Australian, American, and an American southern dialect. A few of the plot elements don’t stand up to a lot of scrutiny, such as why one would have a device laying around that would let your enemies know where to find you. There are quite a few shots that the director must have thought would look nice, but they interrupt the narrative and add nothing. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Just go with it, it’s one hell of an enjoyable ride.