Since the age of two, Hanna has been trained by Erik, an ex-CIA operative from Germany, to be a skilled assassin. He teaches her hand-to-hand combat and drills her in target shooting. He left the agency, going incognito into the Arctic. Erik knows a secret that cannot become public, and is being sought after by Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), a senior CIA officer, who wants to eliminate him. Erik has trained Hanna with the intent that she will kill Marissa. Hanna reads a bloodstained Grimms' Fairy Tales book frequently, has a great deal of encyclopedic knowledge, and is fluent in several languages. Due to her training away from civilization, she has never come into contact with modern technology or culture, and is unfamiliar with music or electricity. She has memorized a series of fake back-stories for herself to be used "when the time comes".
One night, Hanna tells Erik that she is "ready" to face their enemies. Erik digs up a radio beacon that will alert the outside world to their presence. Warning Hanna that if Marissa ever finds her, she "won't stop until you're dead. Or she is", he reluctantly allows Hanna the freedom to make her decision. After some consideration, Hanna flips the switch. Erik leaves, instructing her to meet him in Berlin. Hanna kills two of the special forces team when they enter the cabin and then waits for the rest, knowing that they will assume her father to have killed the pair before escaping.
Hanna is taken to an underground CIA complex. Marissa is suspicious of Hanna's request to talk to her, and sends in a body double (Michelle Dockery) instead. Hanna asks the body double where she met her father. The double, who is being fed answers through an earpiece by Marissa, answers the questions correctly, and Hanna starts to cry and crawls sobbing into the lap of the double, which makes the officials uneasy. They send soldiers and a doctor to her cell to sedate her. As they enter the cell, Hanna kills the double, and several others (stealing a handgun from one), breaks free through the ventilation system and escapes.
In a flashback, Marissa is seen firing at a car that is carrying Johanna Zadek, Hanna's mother; two-year-old Hanna; and Erik. The car crashes but the trio flee. Marissa follows, shooting Johanna as she lies on the ground. But Erik escapes with Hanna into the woods.
Hanna finds herself on the run in the Moroccan desert, where she meets Sebastian (Jason Flemyng) and Rachel (Olivia Williams), a bohemian British couple on a camper-van holiday with their teenage daughter, Sophie (Jessica Barden), and their younger son, Miles (Aldo Maland). She sneaks into the family's camper-van and hitches a ferry ride to Spain with the goal of reaching Germany. The family is nice to her, and she and Sophie become friends, and spend some time together, evenSHARING a kiss.
Marissa hires Isaacs (Tom Hollander), a former agent, to capture Hanna. Hanna travels with the family as they drive north. Isaacs and two skinheads trail them and eventually corner Hanna and the family in France, but she manages to escape, killing one of the men. Marissa arrives and interrogates the British family, finding out that Hanna is heading to Berlin, her place of birth.
Arriving at the address her father had told her, Hanna meets with Knepfler (Martin Wuttke), an eccentric old magician and a friend of Erik's, who lives in aGrimms' Fairy Tales-themed house in an abandoned amusement park. It is Hanna's 16th birthday and Knepfler makes her breakfast. Hanna plans a rendezvous with her father. However, Marissa and Isaacs arrive. Hanna escapes, but not before she overhears comments that suggest Erik is not her biological father.
Later, Hanna meets her father at her German grandmother's apartment, whom Marissa had already shot in a previous scene. Hanna demands he tell her the truth, and he admits that he is not her biological father. Erik once recruited pregnant women into a program where their children's DNA was enhanced in order to create super-soldiers. The project was shut down, with almost all of its subjects eliminated.
Marissa and Isaacs arrive, intent on killing them; Erik acts as a distraction to allow Hanna to escape. Erik kills Isaacs in a brutal fight, but is shot by Marissa, who returns to the Grimm house. Hanna is there, having just discovered Knepfler dead. After a chase, Hanna and Marissa confront one another. Hanna pleads for the killing to end, saying she does not want to hurt anyone else. Marissa says she just wants to talk, but when Hanna starts walking away, she shoots her. Hanna responds by shooting her with an arrow she had pulled from Knepfler's body. Hanna falls to the ground, but gets up, regains her bearings and follows Marissa into a tunnel. She sees a deer, then spots Marissa fleeing up a water slide. The unarmed Hanna chases Marissa to the top of the slide's stairs, as Marissa shoots at her. Near the top, it becomes clear that Hanna's arrow did serious damage, and just as she is about to shoot Hanna, a disoriented Marissa falls and slides down the water flume, dropping her handgun. Hanna follows, picks up the dropped gun, and shoots her in the heart. This bookend scene mirrors the opening of the film in which Hanna hunts and kills the reindeer.
Reviewers remarked that the setting and style of Hanna significantly depart from a typical action movie. According to the official website, the film has "elements of dark fairy tales" woven into an "adventure thriller". Joe Wright, the director, has said that the movie's theme is a "fantasy" about "overcoming the dark side" during the "rites of passage" of adolescent maturation when a child transforms and "has to go into the world". He said that he was influenced by personal exposure every day as he grew up to "violent, dark, cautionary fairy tales" that "prepare children for the future obstacles in the wider world", as well as his "deep love for the mystical qualities of David Lynch movies", by the patterns of narrative that he prefers because of his dyslexia, and by working as a child in his parents' puppetry company.
In an interview with Film School Rejects, Wright acknowledged David Lynch as a major influence on Hanna and also pointed to the The Chemical Brothers' score: "You can expect an extraordinarily loud, thumping, deeply funky score that will not disappoint". The music, including The Devil Is In The Beatsand The Devil Is In The Details, underscores the movie's style, recalling Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange with musical motifs consistent with Wright's "fairy tale theme" of childhood innocence confronting the modern "synthetic" world. Several reviewers have commented that the movie has a hyper-stylized Kubrickian tone, reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. The "Kubrick-esque" style includes Isaac's "gleeful sadism... at times darkly comedic," a whistling villain reminiscent of Alex DeLarge. Joe Wright's "love of fairy tales and David Lynch movies" was seen as blending A Clockwork Orange and the work of the Brothers Grimm.
Richard Roeper judged it to be a "surreal fairy tale" with "omnipresent symbolism". Matt Goldberg said it was "an effective and surreal dark fairy tale"... ..."with a dreamlike sensibility... ...Everything in the picture is slightly askew and provides immediacy to Hanna’s offbeat coming-of-age tale... ...a film that refuses to exist solely in the realm of reality or fairy tale... ...'gritty' realism simply isn’t worthy of the story he’s trying to tell." Fairy tale motifs are strewn through the film. In the "tightly-edited patchwork of visual iconography, allusion and symbolism" Wiegler is equated with the Big Bad Wolf or the queen in Snow White. "Classic fairy tale movie tropes abound;" for example, the camera spins in obvious circles as Hanna makes her escape from the underground government facility early in the film, "just as the young heroine’s world is spinning out of control." Peter Bradshaw found the fairy tale mythology "unsubtle". Conversely, some reviewers did not comment on the fairy tale elements, and others did so with expressive reservation.
Kyle Munkittrick of Discover magazine notes that Hanna is a "transhumanist hero". Despite being genetically engineered to have "high intelligence, muscle mass, and no pity", she is still a good-natured person. He says Hanna, "symbolizes the contest between genetics and environment", or, "perhaps more familiarly, nature versus nurture".
Hanna received mostly positive reviews; it holds a 72% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 203 reviews with the consensus stating "Fantastic acting and crisply choreographed action sequences propel this unique, cool take on the revenge thriller". Justin Chang of Variety states that "Joe Wright's 'Hanna' is an exuberantly crafted chase thriller that pulses with energy from its adrenaline-pumping first minutes to its muted bang of a finish". Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four, commenting "Wright combines his two genres into a stylish exercise that perversely includes some sentiment and insight".
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, on the other hand, gave the film two stars out of five, stating "With its wicked-witch performance from Cate Blanchett, its derivative premise, its bland Europudding location work and some frankly outrageous boredom, this will test everyone's patience." Kenneth Turan, of theLos Angeles Times, states that the film "starts off like a house afire but soon burns itself out". He states that even though the film is "[b]lessed with considerable virtues, including a clever concept, crackling filmmaking and a charismatic star, it ultimately squanders all of them, undone by an unfortunate lack of subtlety and restraint".
According to Hollywood Reporter, Hanna came in second place at the U.S. box office in its first weekend behind Hop. When the film closed on 7 July 2011, it had grossed $40,259,119 in the domestic box office, with a worldwide total of $63,782,078; based on a $30 million budget, the film is considered a financial success.