Hanna (played by Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan of Atonement, also directed by Joe Wright) is 16 years old. She is bright, inquisitive, and a devoted daughter. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a soldier; these come from being raised by her widowed father Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of North Finland. Erik has taught Hanna to hunt, put her through extreme self-defense workouts, and home-schooled her with only an encyclopedia and a book of fairy tales. Hanna has been living a life unlike any other teenager; her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. But out in the world there is unfinished business for Hanna's family, and it is with a combination of pride and apprehension that Erik realizes his daughter can no longer be held back.
Carrying the heavy load of having the title be your name, the character Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has a great deal of pressure attached to her in particular. With an eerie, yet extremely intriguing and innocent performance by Ronan as Hanna, she becomes a character that is fascinating to watch on screen and worthy of sharing the title. A girl of 16, she has been raised in the snow drenched icy forest 60 miles below the arctic circle. Her only companion has been her father, Erik (Eric Bana). A man who has taught her the necessities of life, like how to hunt for and prepare dinner, but also to defend herself. Her training is not the average protect yourself from a would-be attacker in the dark of night; Hanna has been trained to kill. She is beyond her years in skill and incredibly versed in the methods of taking life. The first introduction to her character is when she is hunting in the woods. Cloaked in furs for warmth she hides behind a tree as she stalks her prey. Her hair is wild, the look in her eyes intent on success as she draws her bow and aims for the animal. The chase begins through the forest and onto an icy plain; the animal collapses in pain, its life slowly dissolving away. Hanna looks over the animal and says, "I just missed your heart," and then finishes the job. Hanna is not your average 16 year-old girl, nor has she been raised to be normal; her entire life has been leading up to the point when she is "ready". Ready to take on the woman she has been bred to hate, and kill, Marissa (Cate Blanchett). One flick of a switch sends the signal to the government headquarters where Marissa works, and within hours a team is sent to find Erik--unbeknownst to them they are about to meet Hanna instead, and it is her that Marissa wants. There is a dark secret behind the origin of Hanna'a birth and only Marissa and Erik know the truth; a truth that must be kept secret at all costs.
There we have the beginning of the story of Hanna. This young girl, bordering on adult-hood, is sent out into the world to kill Marissa, and ultimately meet her father in a safe house that has been established. Finding herself in a Moroccan detainment center, face to face with who she thinks is Marissa, Hanna succeeds at her quest by snapping her neck. But the story does not end there. Hanna escapes and is suddenly thrust into a world she has absolutely no idea how to exist in. Everything is foreign to Hanna. She does not know she is being pursued by the real Marissa, and so things take a very different turn in the story. What was in the beginning a startling story of a young killing machine becomes one of discovery. The second act slows down the narrative, allowing for Hanna to acclimate herself. The absolute isolation of her childhood is a hindrance on her in society but also a small blessing in disguise as for the viewer as it is a visceral experience to watch her experience modern life for the first time. She becomes overwhelmed by the sounds of the mechanical; a television, ceiling fan, and even a kettle hissing spike fear. She has been raised to be prepared, but she is not prepared to manage everything that comes her way. Hanna may be the perfect killing machine, the perfect weapon, but she is not human. Her instincts are more animal-like, and her aptitude for emotion, or dealing with people is severely lacking.
Hanna is, to be completely insensitive, a freak. There is a direct correlation between the freak Hanna and the choice of antagonist in the film. Marissa is the main enemy but it is her hired assassin that makes for the more interesting threat. A man with a history for doing what the government will not allow to be done, Isaacs (Tom Hollander) runs a freak show club. He himself looks "different" than anyone else. A tad too pale in the face and hair, his mannerisms far too feminine compared to his easiness with inflicting pain on people. He brings to mind that of an evil circus owner, on the hunt for his next freak show star. But the carnivale theme does not end with him. There are instances of people being questioned, lined up in separate metal containers, as the camera glides passed each, making them appear to be in a peep show atmosphere. Or the final showdown that occurs in an upside-down fairytale house gone mad in an abandoned amusement park. The surroundings full of twisted, broken down carnival rides that no longer fit into society. The freak-show Hanna is exemplified by everything that occurs around her in the film, whether directly related to her actions or experiences or simply through the production design. It is an interesting choice, and creates a much more avant-garde feel to the entire film. This movie about the perfect weapon has more to show than great action sequences and violence. It as an internal depth of character seldom seen in a genre action-thriller, but enough of the basics to appeal to the wider audience.
The first instance where the score takes you by the throat and thrusts you into an awesome display of cinematography and score combining to create greatness is when Hanna escapes from the Moroccan detainment center. The Chemical Brothers' original score blasts into your ears, fills up your senses, as the camera manipulates the space. The camera spins as Hanna shoots out cameras, kills everyone in her way, and busts out the cell door. The concrete walls with the flickering lights envelope the screen as the techno-esque score continues to build and morpth as she runs through tunnels, and narrow passageways, as if in an underground maze. Your pulse races with the tempo, never settling or dropping pace, until Hanna is free from the constraints of the center.
The above is only one instance of the incredible nature of the score created by The Chemical Brothers for this film. It adds the additional level of magnitude needed to exemplify just how Hanna's mind works in moments of conflict. She is like a machine, and as a machine works at full capacity to achieve its goals she too pushes hard, moves quickly, and does what is necessary to succeed. The score does not let Hanna down, but brings her up to an entirely different level of amazement.
[Interested? Find it here: Hanna (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - The Chemical Brothers
Yes, this is definitely an action-movie. Hanna can take down men twice her size, and keep on going. Her father Erik is not so bad himself. You may want to cheer every time one of her unlikely victims hits the floor--and no one would fault you for it.
April 8, 2011