It struck me at the end of Hanna why I enjoyed this film so much. It’s how different Hanna looks and feels compared to most mainstream Hollywood films. You could say I found in Hanna a semblance and an inkling of what an independent film looks like – whether Hanna be such or not.
I rented Hanna expecting some gritty action piece along the lines of the Jason Bourne movies and Salt. What I got was something distinctly unlike either. The action’s steeped in realism but not gritty. In fact I’d go so far as to say the violence in this film is highly stylized. And quirky too. Seeing as how each time an action scene plays up there’s invariably a pulsing track playing in the background, with strong beats rhythmically echoing each step Hanna takes, each punch she pulls, every lunge and draw of breath. If I didn’t know better I would have thought Hanna was adapted from a graphic novel: the scenes look as if they would fit nicely into comic panels, and play out as if they were lifted right off the pages of a comic book. Consider Hanna’s breakout from the facilities where she’s held. There’s one scene where the director rotates a close-up of her face as she runs (and music pounds in the background) 360 degrees. Talk about quirky. The stand-out scene, at least in terms of pure adrenaline-pumping action, has to be the one where she’s chased by three of Marissa’s henchmen and easily evades them by effortless leaping from container to container. There has to be loads of action movies featuring fighting scenes in a container shipment yard – Batman Begins is one that comes immediately to mind – but I’ll go out on a limb and say this is the best one yet. Cat-and-mouse chase scenes, gun fights, hand-to-hand combat – they all mesh nicely into a background of stacks of containers, because it adds so much opportunity for mystery-around-the-corner thrill.
If you want to go one step further into quirky, let’s talk about the very tone of Hanna. It’s a marriage of action and fairytale, with sci-fi elements thrown in for good measure. Go on, gawk. As unholy an alliance as this sounds, well- it works here. Marissa is clearly the evil stepmother, and the one with the most personality in the halls of all fairytale Stepmothers that have come before her. She’s fussy to the point of OCD, adept at combat, merciless and cunning. The thugs she sends after Hanna even exude an eerieness and perverseness in their acts of violence that’s disturbingly fairytale-like in quality. Think Rumpelstiltskin. The sci-fi elements don’t derail the story at all; in fact they make Hanna’s deadliness all the more plausible. Sigh. If only there were such reasonable scientific grounds behind the stunning escapades of every Hollywood action hero.
It’s cool, even funny at times, to see Hanna, so invincible and invulnerable, grasping to fit into civilised society. She’s likely more knowledgeable than the average uni grad, but has zero inkling of how to apply this knowledge in the real world. Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna with subtlety, and if Hanna seems a little unemotional even as she kills and maims, we learn later that there’s a very scientific reason behind this. Though the film does sidestep over these interesting moral conundrums a little too much in its pursuit for stylized violence. Consider Bourne, who disarms innocents standing in his way without killing them, and can’t even bear to kill an assassin sent to kill him in Ultimatum.
Earlier on I shared what I thought was the best action scene. The standout scene in the film, all things considered, isn’t actually that. It’s the ending scene, which smartly echoes the opening scene. Recall at the beginning when Hanna says sorry to the deer (elk?) that she missed its heart before putting a bullet in the deer and then the words Hanna flash on the screen in red and white? Yep, that one.
Rating on Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Rating on IMDb: 6.9
Viewing history: Seen 1x. Rental.