Hanna review: Amazon's latest an uneven mix of violence and intrigue

The pilot episode sets up a fascinating daddy-daughter dynamic and less interesting thriller.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
Expertise Culture, Video Games, Breaking News
Sean Keane
2 min read

Hanna and her father have a fascinating relationship.

Amazon Prime

"Hanna? You mean that movie with Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan?"

That's probably your first reaction to hearing about Amazon's TV adaptation of Joe Wright's 2011 thriller Hanna. Your second reaction: does a two-hour movie stretched into an eight-episode series really work?

If the pilot, streaming on Amazon Video now, is any indication, it'll be an uneven journey.

Joel Kinnaman from Netflix's Altered Carbon replaces Bana as action dad Erik Heller. The show opens with a bang as Heller kidnaps (or rescues?) a baby girl from a mysterious facility in Romania and escapes into the wilderness -- though not without a major sacrifice along the way.

Watch this: The best terrible movies to watch on Amazon Prime

Flash forward 15 years to find the baby is now teenager Hanna, played by Esme Creed-Miles in place of Ronan. Erik sports a classic survivalist beard, living in a surprisingly comfortable cave and hunting for their supper. He's also trained Hanna to be a merciless killing machine -- think X-23 in Logan -- who's capable of choking out her father. Only he complains she didn't do so as quickly as he'd like.

Parents, eh? They're never happy.

That moment and the training that follows tells us all we need to know about Erik's attitude to their relationship, but it's to Kinnaman and Creed-Miles' credit that amid the violence they evoke a strong sense of familial warmth between the two. These scenes offer a compelling slow burn as their small world and relationship is established.


Marissa represents the conspiracy thriller side of the show.

Amazon Prime

Unfortunately for Erik, Hanna's adolescence brings a curiosity that soon shatters their world, attracting the attention of shadowy government agents led by Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos, taking over the role played by Cate Blanchett in the movie). You might remember Kinnaman and Enos teaming up in the US version of The Killing, but this time round they're pitted against each other. They don't share any scenes in the pilot, but it still gives us a pretty strong sense of their rivalry.

Here we fall into familiar conspiracy-thriller territory, with hints of a clandestine operation and soldiers converging on the forest hideout. Hanna's skills are put to the test in a big way and she finds herself facing the outside world for the first time as the episode ends -- a fascinating prospect.

The TV version of Hanna tries to strike a balance between coming-of-age drama and action thriller with this opening episode, but only the former really feels successful. The action itself is well shot and choreographed, but the thriller elements feel a bit "been there, done that."

However, the European locations on display here -- the first two episodes were shot in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Morocco, Spain and the UK -- are spectacular. And Hanna's journey into the wider world is intriguing. Seeing our tiny tough girl negotiating these many and varied locations could be worth the expansion from self-contained movie to epic TV show.

2019 TV shows you can't miss

See all photos