Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hanna (2011)

This is the first movie of 2011 I've been legitimately really excited about. I liked how the director was always dumping on anti-feminism in Sucker Punch. I also liked how Saoirse Ronan was going to fuck shit up. The titular Hanna (Ronan) is a teenage warrior raised in mountainous isolation by her father (Eric Bana). She's incredibly strong, with sharp reflexes, deadly aim, a strong memory, and no fear. She turns herself loose in the outside world by allowing secret agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) to find her. She traipses through Morocco and Europe, aiming to meet up with her father in Berlin, and along the way she learns a bit about family, friendship, fairy tales, and electricity. She also fucks all kinds of shit up! Yes!

This movie is seriously intense. Between the thumping electronic soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers, sharply-edited action scenes, high-stakes chases, and marvelous use of flashing lights, Hanna has everything one needs for an exciting and visually gripping thriller. The addition of an intriguing and likable heroine, subtle notes of science-fiction, and a hilarious British family just about makes this my favorite film of the year so far. Also the absence of forced romantic/mushy stuff. Fuck that. Also the fact that no one makes a big deal about the fact that Hanna's a girl. Her role could easily have been adapted for a teenage boy. But obviously, I'm so glad it wasn't!

Of course, performances: I find Eric Bana fairly bland but he's good enough here with some cool fight scenes and a questionable Eastern European accent. Tom Hollander is gleefully sadistic as a German assassin, rather reminiscent of those Funny Games boys. Saiorse Ronan really holds her own as Hanna. With her bright eyes, diminutive form, and wild hair, she perfectly captures the look of an innocent, raised-in-isolation teenager, which is what makes her convincing performance as a specially-trained killer so impressive. She's likable and naive while remaining a deadly- and surprisingly pliable- threat. It's fascinating. Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng have perfect- if short- appearances as British hippie parents with annoying children.

I've heard a lot about Cate Blanchett here. A friend believes she is purposefully hammy and over the top as a nod to predominantly male villain roles perpetuated by the likes of Christopher Walken and Nicolas Cage. I think that's possible? Everyone else in the movie plays it pretty straight, whereas Blanchett seems to relish her Southern accent and obsession with dental hygiene. It is pretty great. Admittedly I spent a lot of the movie imagining her role as played by Tilda Swinton, whom I like better, but mostly that's because Blanchett had a Tilda-y hairstyle.

What's great about Hanna is that it manages to present a thought-provoking, emotional story without forgetting that it is also a fun, kickass action movie. Her relationship with her father and her growing understanding of the outside world and her own past make for engaging drama, but it doesn't really get into the moral aspects of Hanna's lifestyle, allowing her to hurt a lot of people without worrying audiences about the "murder at age 16" thing. And there are enough moments of levity- primarily with the British tourists- to balance it all out. Good times! Go see it!


Pair This Movie With: There's Prachya Pinkaew's Chocolate for another young woman kicking ass all the time. Or for some reason I'm thinking about Night of the Comet. Love that movie.

Further Reading:
Check out M Hufstader's totally awesome Mythbusting review. It's everything you need to know about the film.


  1. Here's what I didn't get, or at least felt could've used some sort of explanation: if she was raised in total isolation, with, I would expect, absolutely no human contact besides her father, wouldn't seeing another person for the first time be some sort of experience for her? I mean, she's been raised as a heartless killer and all, but I assume she's only ever killed animals, and killing people is a completely different thing, I think. It might all be explained as an army of mooks aren't exactly easy to miss, or the *spoiler explanation you know what I mean*, but I would've liked them to go more in depth about that particular emotional dilemma.

  2. I really enjoyed this one too and totally agree with you about Tilda Swinton. For me it's the best english language action thriller I've seen in years.

  3. @Simon: I think that with movies that go for thrills like this rarely follow super sound logic. Your question is fair, but I think that if you ask too many of those, then the movie simply is not going to work for you.
    For instance, I couldn't understand why Hanna 'had' to press the button to alert Marissa of her presence is she was to leave her home and enter the real world. I guessed some semi-plausible answer, but after a few minutes I gave up and just enjoyed the ride.

  4. I enjoyed this film and agreed with your assessment about it. It's a fun yet witty action film. The moment for me that I enjoyed myself, aside from the action sequences, was when Hanna was seeing the family singing David Bowie's "Kooks". I was singing along to that song, it's one of my favorites from my all-time favorite Bowie album. I was geeking out at that point.

  5. Simon: What Edgar said, but also I figured she'd been so intensely trained and conditioned by her father that her main response of "kill everyone" was pretty instinctive and superseded the "omg human beings!" thing.

    Bonjour: It's cool you saw the Tilda connection too! And yes definitely one of the better English-language thrillers to come out recently.

    Edgar: Good points. Although for the button thing, I figured it was the easiest way for her to get to Marissa, which was the main objective. Her father probably didn't know where she was headquartered, but he knew she'd come for Hanna.

    thevoid: I loved that scene too! "Kooks" is one of my favorite Bowie songs as well, and it was just such a surprising and cute moment.

  6. Yeah, the more you think about some of the potential questions that could arise, the less fun this will be. Since I loved it, I will certainly try not to. Besides, it has so much more going for it that it easily blows away any of those issues.

    And yes, M.'s review is the shit!

  7. I was excited for this come out but never got round to seeing it will be getting it on DVD for christmas and thank you for the review.