Friday, April 15, 2011


There aren't a whole lot of movies where a child plays a bad-ass.  Aside from Kick-Ass, I can't think of anything off the top of my head.  I think it's safe to say that the child-as-a-killer motif in American movies is relatively novel, and that alone makes Hanna an intriguing movie.  Combine the bad-ass child idea with a fairly artsy director (Joe Wright, best known for Atonement and Pride and Prejudice), and you just know that you're in for something different with this film.  A bad-ass chick flick, perhaps?  Perhaps...

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives alone with her father, Erik (Eric Bana), in a cabin in the woods, located just outside of the Arctic Circle.  To say that they don't get out much is a bit of an understatement.  Erik has taught Hanna a variety of survival skills, including hunting, trapping, tanning animal hides, and basically everything you would need to live like a 17th century fur trapper.
Hanna is just like him, but with a little less 'stache.
All of that makes sense for a child growing up outside of civilization.  Erik has also taught Hanna a variety of fighting techniques, including a few martial arts, gunplay, and knife fighting.  He even tests her at random; whenever she feels safe (gutting a deer, sleeping in bed, or other typical child activities), he will attack her with potentially lethal force --- and she can get the better of him, sometimes.  That is quite a bit less common for children of any background.  You see, Hanna and Erik don't live in the forest for kicks, there are people "out there" who want to capture or kill them both, and will never leave them be.  Erik knows the dangers awaiting Hanna, but knows that she will have to deal with it some day; all children need to grow up eventually.  To that end, Erik has a tracking beacon of some sort that, when turned on, will set off alarms at the CIA, and bring their enemies to them; he gives it to Hanna, to turn on whenever she feels ready.  And she does.

The rest of the movie has Erik and Hanna splitting up and being hunted across the world.  Hanna is initially captured (after killing a few CIA agents) and placed in a ridiculous spy movie underground prison (which she kills her way out of), from where she travels, weaponless and penniless, from Morocco to Germany.  Along the way, she encounters a lot of firsts.  She witnesses electricity for the first time, hears her first music, sees her first dancing, meets her first family, makes her first friend, and has a first kiss (whose ass she totally kicks).  Oh, and she beats the hell out of some bad guys that were sent to find her.  There is a lot more to life that what she grew up with, but she will never be able to enjoy it, as long as she's being hunted.

Hanna is definitely an action movie, but what makes it unique is the fact that it is aware of the "real world," the "action movie world," and a world of fairy tales.  While I would hesitate to call Hanna a full-on chick flick, this is definitely one of the more complex action movies you will see, and one that takes pleasure in a lot of unexpectedly cute moments.

But it is an action movie, and a good one.  Director Joe Wright does a great job shooting the action sequences, especially for a first-time action director.  Instead of a lot of close-up shots that are edited together to the point of disorientation, Wright uses a lot of long shots, showing that the actors are the ones performing the action on-screen, which is especially important in convincing the audience that Hanna is actually formidable.  There are a lot of fight scenes that purposely aren't edited, so action buffs are treated to extended fight sequences that were filmed in continuous takes.  The most notable of these has Eric Bana going all "Hulk smash" on a group of CIA agents in a subway station, and it's pretty sweet.
"Hulk want push on swing!"
The acting is pretty good here, too, although the veteran cast played it pretty safe.  Saoirse Ronan was great as Hanna, balancing some very impressive action chops with believable innocence and confusion when she is out in the real world.  Her performance is the key of the film, and she does not disappoint, playing with a maturity beyond her 16 years.  Eric Bana was good as her protective/scary father, but he basically just played a tough guy that doesn't let his emotions out.  Not exactly the toughest role, but he pulls it off easily enough.  Cate Blanchett was okay as the film's villainous CIA operative, but I felt that she didn't seem ruthless enough, despite having several mean moments in the film.  Her southern accent bothered me, too, I'm not sure why.  There were a few other recognizable supporting cast members.  Tom Hollander was great as the evil German sent to track down Hanna; he was creepy and mean, but he also whistled and wore a yellow track suit, so it was an odd blend of absurd humor and creepiness.  Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng have small, broadly drawn character roles, but I thought Jessica Barden was pretty good as an annoying teenage girl that befriends Hanna.  I know, a teenage girl that hates her parents --- what a unique character!  Still, I thought she was appropriately snotty.

At the very least, Hanna is an entertaining action movie.  It's pretty awesome to see a slightly built teenage girl look like she is legitimately beating the crap out of tough-looking guys, even if some of them are wearing suspenders with their skinny jeans.  The story is pretty good, at least thematically.  There is a twist that isn't terribly surprising and probably should have been left out entirely, but it's played down, so I won't complain too much about it.  There is also a fairy tale theme throughout the film, and it may deepen your appreciation for the movie.  It didn't work for me, but you might like it.  Basically, this movie plays out like a Grimm fairy tale; Blanchett plays the evil queen/witch and Hanna is the innocent and good princess.  For most of the movie, this theme is pretty subtle, but when Blanchett walks out of a large fiberglass Big Bad Wolf head, the subtlety has been gone for about ten minutes.  I like it when directors and screenwriters try to add layers to movies, and I appreciate the effort here, but it just didn't click for me.
Silencers.  Just like in the fairy tales.
But don't let that stop you from seeing Hanna.  This is the type of action movie that only comes around every few years, and it's definitely worth seeing, if only to remind you how different action movies can be.  It has some humor, a good amount of emotion, some awesome fighting, and fairy tale stuff thrown in for good measure.  Plus, the soundtrack provided by the Chemical Brothers was pretty cool, too.  The closest film I can compare it to, in terms of how it made me feel, is The Professional.  And that's not a bad thing at all.


  1. As far as bad-ass kids go, there's always that sadistic murdering kid in Robocop 2. He sold drugs, shot at police officers, and had a questionable relationship with a prostitute.

  2. ...but is he bad-ass, or just a bad kid? I can think of some movies with bad kids (the first Toxic Avenger is a great example), but being bad-ass is a little different, I think.

    Excellent call, though. I forgot about the prostitute bit. Happy belated Robocop Day!