Hanna is a film that splits time between gorgeous vistas, intriguing characters, and some pretty kick-ass action scenes. Alas, it also spends part of its time being slick and clever and the other part being predictable and head-scratchingly stupid.
Hanna (Saoirse Rowan) is your typical 16-year-old girl. She’s been raised in complete isolation, she hunts and kills her own meat, and her father, Erik (Eric Bana), tries to kill her two or three times a day. Oh, and if she tries to leave her arctic-forest home, lots of other people are going to try to kill her.
Okay, maybe she’s not that typical.
Alas, the world is far too tempting and Hanna decides to take the big step and announce her existence and whereabouts. This means her dad needs to leave while Hanna waits for the team of killers CIA administrator Marissa (Cate Blanchett) sends to retrieve her. It seems Marissa and Erik have a history, and she’s been looking for Hanna for a while now. At which point we see just how useful Hanna’s upbringing can be in certain situations.
The catch is that once Hanna has (to the best of her knowledge) killed Marissa, she’s left alone in a big, colorful world she never dreamed of. Salvation comes in the form of a family on a cross-continent vacation, but they’re just as much a puzzle to Hanna as everything else. Wiping out a CIA interrogation facility is one thing, but a double date with her new friend Sophie (Jessica Barden) is a situation her father never trained her to deal with. Hanna still has a lot to learn about the world -- and about herself -- and Marissa is closing in on her.
Hanna is very, very well done. It’s slick, fast, well acted, and well shot. Enough so, in fact, that you'll probably be near the end before you realize the villain's motivation and the mid-movie reveal don't make a lick of sense, or that pretty much every element in the film has been done before.
Yep, the teen raised to be a killer, the fish out of water, the CIA agent trying to cover up the past, and even more things past that. There aren’t any ideas in Hanna that haven’t been done several times before -- some of them very recently, too -- but the film manages to keep much of it feeling fresh. The most original thing in it is a fairy tale motif that never quite gets off the ground, mostly because it’s just sort of a generic fairy tale and doesn’t tie to any particular story you’ve ever heard.
The big problem with Hanna, as mentioned above, is that once we get the full backstory on how she and her dad ended up out in the middle of nowhere and why Marissa is trying to kill them...well, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. In fact, the more you look at it, the more ridiculous it gets, and many of the characters' motivations start to seem more and more inane. When you see a teenager who was kept in a broom closet for 10 years and wore a straitjacket every day, it seems a bit pointless to “reveal” she was genetically engineered to have agoraphobia -- who wouldn’t at that point? Director Joe Wright tries to brush this off as an old-fashioned MacGuffin in his commentary, but ignores the fact that Hitchcock’s favorite motivators still needed to be believable and make sense within the scope of the story, even when the audience didn’t know what they were. This is the big thing that keeps the film from being great, because you can't look at it closely without realizing how flawed it is.
Again, Hanna is fun and fast enough that the big flaws won’t catch up until afterward. There’s enough solid acting, some great action, a few laughs, and a catchy soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers. If you’re not looking for much more than that, this film’s a pretty good way to kill two hours. But it's probably a rental rather than a purchase, unless you're really forgiving.
Despite some of the bold stickers, there actually isn’t much to the special features. There are only three deleted scenes. One of them is, in all fairness, completely unnecessary and adds nothing to the film at all. Another one’s really an extended scene, and not extended much past what’s in the final film. The alternate ending is a quick final bit that wisely got lopped off. The “Anatomy of a Scene” is kind of interesting if you’re really into behind-the-scenes mechanics, but not much else.
Perhaps the biggest let-down is the feature commentary with director Joe Wright. To his credit, he admits right up front that he’s probably going to be a bit dull and over-critical of the film since he’s had over a year to think about it. And he’s right -- he certainly is dull. You’ll learn where each shot was filmed, a little bit about his influences as a director, and how a few effects shots were done, but not much else. Which is a bit bothersome, considering Seth Lochhead’s original script for Hanna was solid enough to make it onto the Black List (Hollywood’s annual dream list of great unproduced screenplays) when it first did the rounds in 2009. You’d think that’d make it worth mentioning once or twice, but in fact, it never comes up at all. Nor does David Farr’s work on it. In fact, if you don’t read the back of the case, you’re left with the impression Wright wrote the script on his own with some input from Bana, Blanchett, and other cast members. Which just feels dishonest and a bit, well...rude.