From the whirring throb of a helicopter blade to a whispered goodbye in a crowded street, sound design is integral to our interpretation and enjoyment of film. Just consider Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation or, more recently, Christopher Nolan’s Inception: seriously good sound can take a film to another level.

This is almost the case with Hanna, Joe Wright’s fourth and arguably most enjoyable movie. For a young English director it’s a bold, esoteric feature with a European heart, which relies heavily on strong imagery and ear-shredding sound to carry a threadbare plot. From the very top, Wright stamps his stylish take on the girl assassin genre, as a piercing gun shot and painfully hip titles sequence files the film in line with Nikita, Leon and Kill Bill before five minutes is up. But this is no copycat killer. Hanna, played with a beguiling stillness by Wright regular Saoirse Ronan, rips through this revenge story with such grace and humour that through sheer force of personality the film separates itself from its peers.

The real beauty though comes alive through the speakers, with a soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers that is both understated and fitting, almost every scene excites on more than one level. Indebted to such films as Run Lola Run and the Bourne trilogy, Ed and Tom demonstrate a subtle respect to the medium of film that may surprise some – ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ this is not.

This pulsating undercurrent takes us from the desert to the U-bahn as we follow Hanna’s character in relentless pursuit of revenge. Standing in her way are two unashamedly pantomime-esque villain’s in Cate Blanchett’s Marissa and Tom Hollander’s Isaacs (what’s with the shorts), but their b-movie badness manage to create the right tone rather than detract from an otherwise convincing effort from Wright’s cast. Perhaps more screen time should have been given to the wonderful Olivia Williams and Jason Flemying, but all in all this absurd plot is brought to the screen with aplomb.

Sure, some of the fight scenes are a little hammy, but a brave man follows Atonement and the lesser known The Soloist with an eccentric, free-wheeling action movie. , perhaps more should try.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 27 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2011