Review: Hanna


A song for independence, Hanna is paradoxically born of a motion picture studio. As the title character sheds her sheltered life, so does the film deliver us from our sins, specifically the times we’ve paid into Zach Snyder. Its direct message has been done to death, rarely so bluntly. The choices made in how that trauma is delivered, that’s the real sucker punch. We’re finally desensitized to the heavily edited CG spectacles. Hanna injects honesty back into the action thriller and that’s when things get risky. Hollywood should heed its own message on this one. “Adapt or die.”

The parents of this are presentational realism of the 70’s spy thriller and expressionist metaphors of comic books, or fairy tales if you want to reach as far back as the film does for reference. Hanna is hope for the disenfranchised viewer. It’s also something of a trip. The girl is a fair haired muse, one of a fractured family of hard boiled espionage who globetrot separately and in search of each other. Eventually Hanna will come upon normal people living in harmony. Liberals and conservatives hand in hand? The go-lucky are every bit as peculiar to our CNN addiction as happiness is to the home schooled assassin. That other side of life is similarly naïve though, as we soon come to learn, and so the question becomes “Which is more delusional?” Perhaps it’s not the one commonly mislabeled “escapism.”

All these government agents and black helicopters keen to stamp out the “immediate threat to national security,” so much sickening corruption brought on by perpetual careerism…

Every once in awhile someone on the other end of a phone will gripe about the rising cost of bullet bureaucracy and complications in jurisdiction. How could it be clearer? They’re playing power games with human lives far more from the lens of professional investment than social responsibility and before you think it, this Nordic Nikita isn’t dispatching thugs in front of a poster that says “Brave Men” because misogyny, a problem, is not the problem. In fact, the all-business female in Hanna is the craftiest wolf, the one in cubmother’s clothing, or Prada shoes in the case of Cate Blanchett’s far-out Marissa Wiegler. Above killer kicks, her pant suit and cold crazed gaze are every bit as disconcerting as one real life former first lady’s. Implying that she’s the closest thing Hanna has to a mother makes you fear the girl’s destiny even if the girl does make it out alive.   

The movie’s plot never has much to do with these issues on the surface; rather broadly it suggests elements of the adult world as something sinister. Suffocate magic and you suffocate life. Make a living, make a killing, so long as you distinguish. At one point Hanna meets a man, madder in dire need of a hatter. His words of wisdom: “We make papers and computers so we don’t have to look each other in the face.”

That’s Hanna in the nuttiest nutshell. She is a fey creature, beyond the limitations of language and also restricted by it, as the Britannica entry for “kiss” turns out to be her only insight as to what that means. When her father lets his bird leave seclusion, it is of her own chosen moment in the modest killing-of-age tale. Hanna doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole; she climbs up out of it, again flipping our expectations.

I do have a criticism though and it’s a significant one. Thus far the focus has been on what makes Hanna special, but it’s far from the film’s primary goal. Instead, it’s the breakneck pace of kinetic energy boosted by the Chemical Brothers behind every choreographed crossover. Each of the film’s token hunter/hunted gets down with violence and gives chase while sensitive stuff is only in the periphery. Many of those touches of brilliance I detected are skipped over like a smooth stone on water.  When Hanna holds an unbeatable hand, it draws another card. The bookends of the movie abruptly punch in and out as if the film is incomplete, but the impatience is noticeable most in a key scene where our underage heroine, after trekking from the Middle East through Europe, often on foot, locates the secret of her identity in a final trip to Google.

When this happens, a film that otherwise indulges in spectacular one-shot fighting randomly hyper-edits past the humanity in a montage of images including Hanna’s own dilating pupils. That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna give me? You’ve been (effectively) riding the coattails of better Luc Besson movies for a full hour, but in lifting the scene where the fifth element learns human history on a computer you neglect the emotional impact conveyed by Milla Jovovich in that role?

It’s not as if actress Saoirse Ronan can’t handle it. Her turn as Hanna is already challenging and the young actress hits every mark with uncanny poise so long as she’s given the opportunity. Your ticket to Hanna purchases a window into a stunning talent but also the beginning of an exceptional career. No wonder Joe Wright, who also directed her in Atonement, has teased her name for both Anna Karenina and The Little Mermaid within the same 24-hour period this week. If he can’t keep up with her, she’ll take to the sky.

This movie explores the music in motion and our culture through sound. The crowd pleasing pace keeps it from being truly exceptional, but maybe that’s why The Pretender was a television show. I admire Hanna. If well established spy novels and superheroes weren’t such major financial investments in the Hollywood adaptation strategy, we might see more films like it. Hanna is a brave exercise. I just can’t escape the fact that its caribou hunting wildchild’s opening line of dialogue still echoes in my mind.

“I just missed your heart.”

Matthew Razak: If you’re looking to find out how to make an action/spy thriller more than just an action spy thriller then look no further then Hanna. Cram full of great fights and action sequences, which in turn are crammed full of creativity and originality, the film also has some of the best developed characters in any film out this year. It’s subtle and real while also thrilling and intense. My only real gripe is that the amazing Chemical Brothers soundtrack can sometimes overpower the events of the film instead of work with them. 84 — Great