“Hanna” lacks originality

By Ian Opolski


The first scene of “Hanna” shows the title character hunting an elk. After an intense hunt, Hanna misses the mark and her shot fails to fatally wound the animal. Standing over its body, she robotically intones, “I missed your heart.” This opening shot proves to be extremely prophetic, because “Hanna” is, for the most part, such a conventional and uncreative action movie that when it aims for the heart of the audience (or its brain, for that matter), it misses the mark by a long way. 

The movie follows Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), a scrappy 16-year old girl with extraordinary physical strength. She lives in a cottage in the woods of Finland with her father (Eric Bana), who trains her in stealth and survival skills. Her father is honing his daughter’s abilities so that one day she can venture into the world and kill an American politician named Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). But when Hanna goes to make her assassination attempt, she finds that her mission, her past, and the world itself are nothing like she had imagined.

There are, admittedly, some very cool fight scenes throughout the movie. Hanna has been trained in every imaginable form of combat, so we are treated to knife fights, shootouts, hand-to-hand combat and even archery. These intense fight sequences are combined with creative camera angles and a strong electronic soundtrack crafted by The Chemical Brothers to create several moments that approach sensory overload. Post-battle close-ups of Ronan’s blood-spattered face set to a techno beat are some of the rare stimulating moments which “Hanna” has to offer.

Ronan herself is another of the film’s few bright spots. Her character, raised far outside human civilization, is bewildered by such aspects of modern life as electricity, and she completely lacks social skills; at one point, for instance, she enthusiastically brings a raw rabbit to the breakfast table. Such scenes could be unintentionally hilarious, but Ronan navigates them well enough that even if they aren’t endearing, they are at least credible. The actress’ pale skin, wild blond hair, and bright blue eyes are physically perfect for the part; she actually looks like someone who could have been raised in the woods.

The best performance by a young actress in the film, however, has to go to Jessica Barden, who plays a brain-dead English girl whom Hanna befriends along her journey. Her comedic delivery is one of the few points which “Hanna” really nails, and she makes a nice counterpoint (and perhaps a small measure of cultural commentary) when placed side-by-side with Ronan’s uncivilized wild child.

Otherwise, the acting in the film is either negligible or bad. Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler is icy and ruthless, but because her character is so undeveloped, she comes off more as a gun-toting caricature than a formidable opponent. Blanchett attempts a Southern accent, but the result doesn’t actually seem representative of any portion of the United States.

Even worse is Eric Bana’s character, which is even more undeveloped and contributes almost nothing to the movie except for some fight scenes and shirtless sequences. Bana certainly could have been omitted from this movie and it wouldn’t have made one iota of difference.

The worst part about “Hanna,” though, is its plot. The reasons which motivate Hanna’s mission are revealed slowly, so for much of the movie, the audience is clueless as to why Hanna and Wiegler are in conflict. The movie feels as if it is heading toward a great plot twist or some grand revelation, but the payoff is disappointingly straightforward, even to the point of blandness. Further, while the scenes detailing Hanna’s bewilderment in modern society do help to develop her character, they don’t make any real sense. If she is going on a mission which requires at least a small degree of espionage, why wouldn’t her father prepare her for actual human interaction?

Action movies like this require suspension of disbelief, but a lunatic teenager who has no social skills and beats up almost everyone she encounters would probably stand out a bit more than Hanna does in this film. If “Hanna” had more positive qualities, it might be easier to overlook these lapses in credibility, but the film’s plotline is so weak that it is hard not to focus on all the film’s faults.

With its strong visuals and seasoned actors, “Hanna” could have been good, but the storyline is tired and brings nothing new to the table. A weak narrative and a particularly disappointing finale make this one a dud.

Ian Opolski can be reached at [email protected]