Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hanna, a Review of a Modern Fairy Tale

You're a Freak, but I like You 

Once upon a time, in the not too distant future, a man and his daughter live in the forest, in the desolate wastes of Finland. The two lived in a big cabin, wore clothes made of reindeer skin, and hunted and fished for their food. At night when the snow fell, it's always snowing in Finland; the father would read stories to his little girl, from a book of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. The girl loved the stories during the day, the father taught his daughter to hunt with a bow and arrow, and how to capture, kill, and clean her prey. By the time his daughter was 16 years-old, she could kill a man with her bare hands. The little girl's name is Hanna, and she is the most unlikely, and the newest assassin to come to theaters in a while. Eric Bana (Hulk, Troy) plays her father, Erik Heller; a secret agent who went off the grid and went rogue, when Hanna was two years old. Cate Blanchet is Marissa Wiegler, the CIA agent, who, 14 years ago was to terminate a program that experimented with creating genetically-enhanced soldiers. Lovely Bones and Atonement star, Saoirse Ronan is Hanna.

There comes a time in all children's lives, when they must leave the nest. Hanna's time is now. After proving to Erik, that she could have killed him several times; decides it is time for his baby girl to go out into the world. Hanna's lessons are complete, Erik had taught his daughter to "adapt or die," "Thinking on her feet," "always watch her back - even when she is sleeping"; and most importantly; to kill Marissa Wiegler- the evil witch who betrayed and murdered Hanna's mother. In the dark of night, and the cold of winter, Erik paces out his steps to where, like a precious treasure, he buried, long ago, a radio transponder. Before getting a head start away from their little house in the woods, Erik instructs his child that she is the only one who could get close to Wiegler, and in doing so, must kill her.

The die is cast, and Hanna trips the signal which alerts Wiegler, who in turns alerts her CIA cronies about a possible situation. However, she is unable to get any support and must look outside for contract killers to do her dirty work. Wiegler, speaking in a southern drawl, reminiscent of Silence of the Lamb's Clarice Starling, What becomes clear within the first half hour of the film is that both Hanna and Wiegler are well matched opponents, one in skill, and the other in cunning and treachery. The one thing that the two women have in common is a personal need to kill each other. Hanna's need is one that is both genetic in her nature, and nurtured in the cold, dark forest by her father Erik, a rouge CIA operative. Invoking the theme of a fractured fairytale, director Joe Wright depicts Hanna's life as Spartan and bleak. Enhancing this aura of grimness is the slightly washed out cinematography of Northern Europe. Hanna, who has never had contact with the outside world, other than encyclopedias and an old copy of Grimm's fairy tales, finds herself a stranger in a strange land. After escaping the Wiegler's clutches, Hanna finds herself a stowaway with a hippie family who are traveling through North Africa, and Europe. These images, in contrast, are bright, colorful, and hopeful; however, as the troupe closes in on Hanna's destination, Berlin, where she plans on rendezvousing with her father, the images gradually sink into bleakness, and seriousness. Hanna first makes contact with their daughter Sophie, and the two girls become fast friends. Friends and human contact are the things that Hanna desires and wants. Traveling with the family we get to know about Hanna and about the quirky family she has stowed away with. All the while Wiegler has her henchmen trailing the family and Hanna from town to town ready to make their move.

The Chemical Brothers provide the soundtrack for the film, although is cool but not inspiring. The story is not of revenge, although that plays a part, and in revenge films, there are always unexpected casualties. No, what Hanna is truly about is survival, survival of the fittest, the smartest, and the most skilled. What is not about is survival by treachery, or ego, which are character traits displayed beautifully by Cate Blanchet as Weigler. Eric Bana displays the tough love that we need to give our children as needed to help them adjust to life's bumps and ditches. No, we don't need to teach our children how to kill with a blow to the throat, but it doesn't hurt to teach them self-defense. Director Joe Wright had worked with Saoirse Ronan before in The Atonement, where she played the young Briony, a jealous girl who essentially ruins her sister's chance at happiness. In Hanna, she is also excellent at portraying all the emotions a young girl would go through if she was brought into this world full of death and destruction. This movie is not funny like Kick Ass (2010), but it wasn't meant to be. Ronan is not the cute and loveable Hit-Girl played by Chloe Moretz. Ronan, is endearing, but in her own way. Who can resist a pretty young girl who kicks ass, not for the sake of right and wrong, but in order to save her father's and her own life.

In many ways, Hanna plays like a well-choreographed ballet, where every image has a reason, every action scene is necessary, and any spilling of blood is there not just shock value, but lends to the violence, of Marissa's character, to show the extent of violence she is capable of, in order to eliminate Hanna and her father. Hanna is also a story of a broken family, where the wicked stepmother, the Queen looking into the mirror, and asks if there is one who is better than her, and the answer is Hanna. I liked Hanna for these reasons, and I believe that Hanna is a film worth watching in the theaters or at home when it comes out on DVD or Blu-ray.

Movie Data

Genre:  Action, Adventure, Thriller
Year:  2011
Staring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
Director: Joe Wright
Producer(s): Marty Adelstein, Leslie Holleran, Scott Nemes
Writer: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Rating: PG-13

Originally posted on Yahoo Voices on 5/8/2011

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