Film Review: Hanna (2011)

What happens when a sci-fi hued thriller offers little character development and no plot points that can't be pinpointed in the movie marketing? The thriller fails. It doesn't matter how slick, how well-acted, how stylized the action is--if there's nothing to the plot, there is nothing worth watching in the film. Hanna is sadly one of these sci-fi hued thrillers with no plot advancement. Hanna (played very well by Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl raised by her father (Eric Bana, doing his best with no real character) in the woods. He trains her to fight, defend, hunt, track, and kill humans. When she is deemed ready, she is allowed to flip a switch that will send out a signal to federal agent Marissa Veigle (Cate Blanchett in her Notes on a Scandal scene-chewing mode). Hanna has two jobs: kill Marissa and reunite with her father in Germany.

So once that's all laid out, nothing changes for any of the characters. There are different scenarios--Hanna escapes a federal bunker, Hanna negotiates a room rental, Hanna stows away in a camper--but everything that happens is leading to the inevitable showdown between Hanna and Marissa. Had screenwriter Seth Lochhead and David Farr done anything to build a sense of suspense or mystery in their screenplay, Hanna would be a great film. Instead, we have a picture with a well-placed stretch of introductory exposition, a lot of pretty landscapes and teen milestones, and a five minute info dump ten minutes before the end of the picture that explains nothing we didn't already figure out.

The screenplay is a terrible shame because director Joe Wright's vision of the story is excellent. The cinematography is beautiful, with just the right amount of color bursting or fading to reflect Hanna's mode. When she's supposed to be sweet and innocent (or genuinely is experiencing normal life for the first time), the colors are vibrant and wild, as if no one had ever seen those colors before. When she's fighting, it's duller, for the outrageous fight scenes are as mundane as a car ride to anyone else in the film. The editing is clean and crisp. I never once doubted that Hanna was doing her own stunts or that Marissa wasn't firing the gun at anything that moves.

The one flaw in the technical filmmaking is the sound mixing. The Chemical Brothers produced a great original score for the film. The cues fit perfectly with the tone and themes grow, fade, and evolve like the screenplay should have. The score also overpowers most of the scenes it appears in. If a gunshot isn't louder than a haunting synth pad, there's a problem. There are some very realistic fight sound effects that are totally overwhelmed by the level of the score.

Hanna makes a lot of references to fairy tales. It's an apt device. The character is a girl locked away from the world who finally gets a chance to free herself from her lonely tower and live her life. The problem with the film is that it makes these fairy tales seem rich and complex by comparison. I'd recommend the film to die hard action fans if there weren't so many coming of age, almost lightly comedic scenes, in it. I'd recommend it to coming of age story fans if there wasn't so much bloodshed and violence for the sake of bloodshed and violence.

There isn't even any shock value left in the film for the thrill-seekers because none of what Hanna does is shocking in the wake of Kick-Ass or even Let the Right One In. At best, I'd suggest renting it on DVD for the quality of the visuals. That way, you can fast forward through the whole middle hour where nothing changes for any of the characters outside of Hanna getting some life experience.

Rating: 5/10

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