Ryan and I were originally going to see Sucker Punch (I know, I know) but ended up seeing Hanna at a time that was more convenient. It probably ended up being one of the best decisions we’ll make all year.
Before I get down to the nitty gritty of why everyone should see this movie (especially those who consider themselves uninterested in “action” movies-I’ll explain later) I wanted to take a moment to recognize the interesting trend in young female assassin flicks in Hollywood. Kick-Ass (2010), Sucker Punch (2011), and Hanna (2011) all came out within this past year; but unlike Hit Girl from Kick-Ass and the gang of tormented beauties from Sucker Punch, Hanna is not the typical cold-blooded killer that is highly sexualized with superfluous violence for the consumption of a predominately male audience. And that’s why Hanna isn’t the typical action movie. It’s a “gateway” movie, for those who wish action movies were more than just boobs and explosives.
I do want to make one thing clear before I continue-I love action movies, particularly war dramas, but I’m not above fun fair like Kick-Ass either. And I am also a woman. I say this because my love of war films surprises many people. I’m not sure why Saving Private Ryan remains as one of my favorite all-time movies, but it has to do with the prefect blend of action and the human story behind it all. And that’s what Hanna brings to the table.
The film begins with the character Hanna, hunting in the woods. She bags a pretty robust stag with an arrow, but misses the straight kill zone. As the animal lies dying, she walks over and utters, “I just missed your heart,” and shoots the animal. I at first saw this as an act of mercy, but we soon find that Hanna was created to deny such things. She lives with her CIA agent father, in a small wooden bungalow at the Arctic Circle, the only home she has ever known. There, her father Erik (Eric Bana) has been training her to fulfill a mission of revenge against another CIA-agent, Marissa (Cate Blanchett). It’s important to note that although Hanna grows up completely isolated, she is far from a dim-witted war machine. She knows multiple languages, can recite facts about any culture or country and knows the definition to any word. Oh yeah, and she kicks a lot of ass. But there’s a limit to how much one can learn from a book, and it’s illustrated beautifully in a scene involving Hanna, Erik, and the definition of music. Music, like so many things in the real world, needs to be experienced. It’s a small allegory that foreshadows some of the difficult trials Hanna will face when she is confronted with her mission.
I don’t want to give too much away from the actual plot of the film; at times, I felt the film’s plot was a little unsatisfying in terms of scope, but the film offers so much that in the end I wasn’t bothered so much by it. One thing the film does so creatively is weave together a modern day espionage thriller with that of a classic fairy tale. Yes, there are many references to fairy tales in this movie, but not your garden variety fairy princess tales. The film alludes to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, when such tales were cautionary stories against the evils of the world and didn’t include adorable singing animal sidekicks.
I bring up this fairy tale aspect of the film because it adds an emotional layer to Hanna that is not at all sappy or sentimental but real. Hanna doesn’t play a fairy princess in distress, although the audience recognizes her difficult situation involving a missing parent, a lost childhood, and no sense of connection with anyone or anything besides Erik. And of course the fact that she is being hunted by Marissa, who undoubtedly is the obsessive evil stepmother in this tale. There is a deliciously evil moment when Hanna realizes she is alone in what was to be a meeting place for her and Erik. The man who pledged to keep Hanna safe before her father’s arrival has been killed, and Hanna is alone in his Alice in Wonderland-inspired compound. She hears a sound outside, and slowly makes her way to the window. She pulls back the curtain and is only met by Cate Blanchett’s evil eye, and crooked smile. Perfect.
In much the same way that Fables is recommended to people who aren’t comic or graphic novel readers, Hanna is a film I would recommend as a departure from the average action film. It does something different and portrays the “action heroine” in a refreshing way. Yes, she is a killer, but there is restraint and a child-like wonder that was absent from Hit Girl. She was also clothed for the whole movie…I think that takes care of the rest of our notable action heroines.
*I also want to mention the score by The Chemical Brothers-it’s awesome and definitely added to the enjoyment of the film. I love when that happens. Similar to the trend of young female assassins, Hollywood is beginning to recruit more mainstream and electronica groups to compose their scores and the results have been genius. An Academy Award for Trent Reznor this year, and the sweet cameo of Daft Punk in Tron proved to be welcome surprises. Let’s hope they keep it up!