Hanna – A review

A review

Often late to the party at such things, I only got around to seeing Hanna yesterday and thus this isn’t exactly the most timely of reviews. Chances are good if you wanted to see it you’ve done so already and if you didn’t want to, nothing I say here is going to change that. So instead of reviewing the movie like a normal movie review, I’m going to spend a little time here talking about the writing side of it. After all, this is a writing blog, right? So, I wont talk about the cinematography, the various visual continuity errors, or the generally terrific acting (with one wandering accent aside), or the sly, fun little  nods to the old Fritz Lang movie M. As a review of the writing side of things, there will be spoilers. In fact…


It is a story as old as time. Ex-CIA operative spends 15 years in a forest above the arctic circle in Finland raising a young girl to be a super-assassin in order to unleash her on the non-Ex-CIA handler who almost killed them both a decade and a half ago. Hilarity ensues.

But what sets Hanna apart from being just another revenge movie/spy thriller is the wit of the writing. Not to say that everything is perfect. There are flaws there too. Like how the Ex-CIA operative Erik (Eric Bana) does all this training and raising in a shack in the woods with no electricity in order to stay ‘off the grid’ and out of CIA sight, and yet doesn’t anticipate that Hanna would be overwhelmed when she is finally set loose in modern society with our televisions and automobiles and telephones, none of which she has ever seen before. Or how Erik, who is supposed to be very smart and who worked with the non-Ex-CIA handler Marissa (Cate Blanchett) for a couple years prior to everything going south doesn’t even consider the idea that she might be wary enough to have someone else lie about being her in order to see what this strange feral girl (Saoirse Ronan) who is asking to see her intends to do if they do meet. Or how after Issacs (Tom Hollander), Marissa’s hired psychopath, captures the family that were helping Hanna, it’s never really shown what happens to them nor does Hanna seem to give them a second thought from then on.

No, the movie isn’t perfect. The plot has a few holes in it. However, the character writing is delicious. Each character is fully realized and while there are archetypes, they also go a fair ways towards turning some of those archetypes on their heads. Marissa is perhaps the least maternal female villain ever. The rapport between Erik and Hanna at the beginning of the movie is outstanding. “I’m glad you didn’t snap my neck,” he tells her at one point. And the creepy villain Isaacs couldn’t be creepier and more villainous if he tried, and yet still comes off as flamboyantly gay even though we’re told early on that he likes young girls.

The real showpiece is, of course, the title character. Yes, she adapts to all the ‘mod cons’ of the high-tech world she finds herself suddenly in quickly, but that is partly explained in the plot itself so it is not a big deal. Her humor (all of it unintentional on the character’s part), and the interactions she has with the family that befriend her and help her travel from Rubiyat to Berlin are where a good deal of the emotional charm of the movie stems from. Example: when the family find out that Hanna’s mother died some time ago and they ask, quite naturally, what she died of and Hanna responds utterly straight-faced “Three bullets.”

Fish out of water humor is nothing new, especially in the realm of Scifi (and make no mistake, Hanna is a Scifi movie). In fact, it is one of the staples of the genre. What sets Hanna apart from many is the combination of warmth and understatement with which it is played. She doesn’t make comments or perform googly-eyed double-takes at every single thing she sees. The humor isn’t played with the fearful belligerent bombast of, say, John Crichton. She does, as the tag line of the movie suggests, adapt. Her strangeness still manifests itself oddly at times, but never in a big flashing lights “look at me!” sort of way. It only takes her a second, for example, to figure out how to use the mouse on a computer, and never once does she pick it up and try to talk to it.

And the character stays true to herself. She was designed and trained to be a killer, a human weapon. So even though she knows that the Spanish boy is going to try to kiss her, (she even asks “So, is this where we kiss?” and launches into a book lecture on the muscle movements required to perform the action), she still reacts as if he attacked her when his hand gets too close to her face. Years of muscle memory conditioning prevent her, that first time at least, from behaving as if this were not a threat even though she knows in her head it’s not. And she’s so used to taking orders from Erik that she has to ask her friend (Jessica Barden) what to do with the ‘captured’ boy, in one of the funnier moments in the movie. The friend Sophie’s response is priceless, as is Hanna’s ‘apology’ to the boy.

As a Scifi movie goes, I have to congratulate the marketing team for not blowing the ‘twist’ in the trailers, as so often happens.

All in all, a very well written, entertaining movie with a sweet, mind-numbingly deadly protagonist. If you haven’t seen it yet and you’re one of my five readers, I do recommend you go catch it at your earliest convenience.


1 Comment

Filed under Moving Pictures - Movies and TV, Words words words - Writing and books

One response to “Hanna – A review

  1. Jennifer Williamson

    There’s some interesting fairy tale symbolism lacing through the movie as well, which isn’t exactly hidden (Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with all its dark bloody stories, figures large throughout the movie.) The idea that the little girl on the journey isn’t exactly helpless is an interesting twist — that the wicked witch isn’t exactly a toothless hag is as well (although notice how obsessed she was with her teeth?)

    Oh, and fun tidbit: in dream symbolism, a woman who dreams of losing her teeth is supposed to be afraid that she will be barren or never have children.

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