Review: Hanna

Written by John Forbyn on . Posted in Film

Jason Bourne and Beatrice Kiddo have a Finnish baby daughter who, big surprise, was conceived as some sort of super soldier but is now being sought for elimination by the very agency who created her, thus prompting her to cut a bloody swath of independent vengeance up to the front door of the secret program’s director (directrice, in this case), eh? Well, we’ve already played it out in our heads, but, sure, we’ll buy it. Of course, we will. Formulaic, but it’s the formula for awesome, so sign us up.

No, Ludlum’s and Tarantino’s characters are not explicitly alluded to or literally borrowed from, but the flavor is inexcapably familiar. Here’s the good news, though: Hanna is significantly more than just a tundrafied teenager mashup of these new classics — it has a meaningful story all its own sneaked in between the fights.

And there is fighting. Cool fighting. Eric Bana and newcomer Saoirse Ronan spend the first 20 minutes of the film alternating between woodland-rules physical throwdowns and quaint firelit encyclopedia study sessions in an expositional bonding sequence that, while not as cleverly shocking as that of Kick Ass, is also thankfully less crass. And then the rest of the film shows the pair using said mad skills to pwn baddie after baddie in situation after situation until the film is over. You knew that.

But here’s the bit you might not have known: director Joe Walsh takes the ambient aestheticism and drmatci pensiveness previously demonstrated in 2007′s Atonement and 2005′s Pride and Prejudice (you know, the relatively not-lame version — the Donald Sutherland one) and re-appropriates it, breathing a relatively non-sexist, authentic sympathy into Hanna‘s story in order to emotionally bolster the coming-of-age moments and themes that other directors might have ignored.

The result is a film with no shortage of comic-booky radnesses worthy of the thumping techno score (thanks, Chemical Brothers, you’re so good to us!), but which is also genuinely concerned with its protagonists growth and self-discovery. When young Hanna is not wasting drones or leaping from something to other-something, she’s dealing with boys, commiserating with broad-minded British neo-hippies, and watching the landscape roll past the car window — all while asking herself why she is who she is and where she’s going and why.

The direction and plot have their contrivances, yes, but truly the narrative proves itself an earnest modern descendent of the very Grimm tales it references. Credit is due to storysmiths Seth Lockhead and David Farr for creating a tale in which a real-world Hanna-type young person could lose him/herself — a classically pittoresque adventure which steps from eye-opening episode to episode, but which does so in a contemporary style that, while borrowed from some of cinema’s recent greats, is appreciably unique in this application.

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