Classic Movie Review: Hanna (2011)

Hanna is about a teenager taught to be an assassin and spy. Her one mission is to eliminate the woman responsible for her mother's death and the program that created her. It stars Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett and is directed by Joe Wright.

This story on its face is very simple. It's something we've seen a few times in a couple of different iterations, but what those films lack and what Hanna embraces is the absolute absurdity and bonkers nature of the situation and the super humans involved. There's the scene that Erik, played by Bana, walks across Scandanavia and swims to Germany. Then of course there's Marissa Weigler, played deliciously by Blanchett, and her incredible red hair and outrageous Southern accent. Then there's when Hanna, played by Ronan, walks across the desert after escaping the CIA black site and when she comes across a girl who offers her a ride, she says she'd rather walk. She'd rather walk through the desert with no water in an orange jumpsuit! Yet, with all of this, the film still has a sense of reality within it because Hanna may be abnormal and was raised in stark wilderness, but she's not a robot.

When she finally does track down the family again, they're at a hotel and she figures out they're in Morocco. Every human experience she's missed, she approaches with an inquisitiveness that could be over played like it has in so many other films, but here it's handled deftly. I wish these scenes were longer. There is so much to mine from a girl never having had the influence of different opinions or the nurturing presence some parents can bring. The scenes with Olivia Williams as Rachel, the free-spirited matriarch of the family are just on the edge of something wonderful, but as it is an action film first, we never push past the surface of those interactions. The same with the scenes of Hanna and Sophie, the teenager her age, played by Jessica Barden. There is this balance between motor-mouthed Sophie and contemplative, aware Hanna that's wonderful to watch. There's also a lot of queer energy coming from their relationship, like they're caught in the thrill of discovering themselves when they're with each other. It's sweet and chaste and has the potential to be explored so much more. Yet, we need guns and knives and punches and running, so these scenes are woefully under explored as well. Though, those action scenes really are spectacular.

Joe Wright, like Alfonso Cuaron and many others of their generation, loves a good tracking shot. One of the best he employs in Hanna is not just tense, but also has a great deal of symbolism. Erik walks off of a bus and into the terminal. We, like him, notice a few people noticing him. Then he goes outside with multiple ads for eyeglasses or with prominent eyes as he passes pillars with agents hiding behind them. Then there's Banksy's famous phrase, "One Nation Under CCTV" spray painted on a wall. The symbolism had the potential to be eye-rolling (pun intended), but its just enough that when the tension reaches its climax the viewer can forget all that as Erik is surrounded by four agents he dismantles like they're nothing.

While the performances in this film are all a bit unhinged and this side of sanity, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the superbly creepy performance of Tom Hollander. When Marissa is in over her head with trying to catch both Erik and Hanna, she decides to split herself and unleash Isaacs onto the world. He's a sociopath and with one throwaway line he may also be a pedophile. Plus, the crew he runs around with are dressed as skinheads so it's almost guaranteed he has white nationalist leanings as well. He's a mosaic of a pitiless killing machine and he loves his work. The creepiest part about him, though is his affect of whistling the tune of "The Devil in the Details," by The Chemical Brothers, who also scored the film. It's a sprightly, jaunty tune and when that is put in juxtaposition to stalking his prey in the stacks of shipping containers, it's an extra layer of shuddering at his inhumanity.

Hanna is not a film everyone can like, the the color palette and the choices are bold. There are times when the viewer doesn't know which way is up. Yet, it's so much better than you're expecting based on the similar concepts in other films like it. Hanna embraces the absurdity of the super soldier/super spy narrative without dipping into full Austin Powers or the over the top spectacle that the Mission: Impossible films have become. I suggest you see it and you go at it with eyes open because it's definitely a ride worth taking.

Hanna is not streaming on any subscription service at the moment, it is for rent for a small fee on all of them, but I think Amazon may pick it up for Prime as they have adapted it into an episodic series.

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