Hanna Dir. Joe Wright

[Focus Features; 2011]

Styles: sci-fi, action
Others: The Fifth Element

Since screenwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr couldn’t be bothered to make the whole ‘genetic modification’ angle of Hanna in any way believable, I can’t be bothered to explain it in profuse detail or even accurately, so… just think Fifth Element but without any aliens or eschatological prophecies, okay? Indeed, Hanna (Saoirse “sow-orse/say-o-urse” Ronan) is another Leeloo, but even more bad-ass, so much so that she doesn’t even need Bruce Willis to help her out. This time it’s Eric Bana, who is done trying to be a creepy romantic lead and is back in top form beating the ever loving, well-choreographed piss out of people, sometimes in a single take, which is probably the coolest thing about the entire film.

At some point in the early 90s, a shadowy international intelligence agency, which allows its agents to kill innocent, sometimes elderly people at will, pumps out about a dozen of these child super-warriors with modified DNA that makes them really strong and smart and inhibits the debilitating emotions of fear and pity (it’s science alright; whatever, leave it). But when the project is cancelled, of course, it becomes necessary to kill a bunch of babies — again, a program of this nature can probably be accounted for by some small print in the National Security Act of 1947. However, one of the agents, Erik (Bana… Eric) Heller “goes rouge” in an effort to protect the young Hanna, rearing and educating her in “the forest” in preparation for her release into the world. Sinister pant-suited agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett, who does the contralto scratchy-throat villainness thing that she does to piddling effect every so often) devotes her career to finding and stopping him from releasing the wild killer warrior-girl into the world.

(The remainder of this review will consist of detailed ‘film-review-ish’ explanations of the notes I wrote on my cell phone using predictive text technology while watching Hanna.)

• “Music good”: This must be a reference to the soundtrack. The Chemical Brothers’ contribution to Hanna is worth noting, because while it is thoroughly entertaining and usually functional, — lending a schizoid intensity to already-quite-bonkers action sequences, which are perhaps even more exciting to watch than some assholes dancing poorly at a rave — a lot of these passages feel very much like something off of a highly accessible late-90s big beat album. And at this point in history, long after the mainstream’s brief love affair with electronic music, it almost has a quaint, retro feel.

• “David Bowie”: There’s a scene in the film where Hanna, stowed away in a camper belonging to a family of Estuary tourists she’s befriended earlier, watches from the shadows as they sing along to David Bowie’s “Kooks.” I couldn’t help but think that an American critic might mention this in a negative review of the film as an example of director Joe Wright’s tendency towards ineffectual pandering ‘hipness,’ but without realizing that, much in the same sense that a boring middle class American family might have a Beatles singalong on a car trip, a boring middle class English family probably would have a David Bowie singalong since he’s a much bigger icon in his native country than he is in the United States. However, on the subject of cultural prejudices…

• “German perverts”: This probably refers to Hanna’s secondary antagonists, a group of stereotypically kinky German cyberpunks in the service of Marissa (who is presumably some kind of American southerner) who play off of any number of bland German stereotypes. Similarly, although Wright’s rendition of Berlin as a grim, ugly place full of insane bums may be vaguely accurate, it does reinforce the idea that Germany is a depressing industrial wasteland (which, again…). Furthermore, the filmmaker’s tendency towards exploitative weirdo primitivism (noted as “primitivism annoys, other culture-weirdness stokes weight’s mental bru” — that is to say, using the startling otherness of Moroccan culture to heighten Hanna’s fear and disorientation) can be seen as a little cheap.

• “They always get the zen balls wrong”: At one point, a German skinhead can be seen intimidatingly fidgeting with some Baoding balls, but as is always the case in movies, they have him rubbing them together, when the point of the meditative exercise is to keep them separate, lest you defeat their entire therapeutic purpose by just fidgeting. But, of course, the point of giving a German skinhead Baoding balls to play with is to make him even more scary, and not even “German-scary,” but “Far East-scary” as well.

• “academicg Shit talk embarrasiog perhagr in direct response to whigag german, horrible horrible new age neither works parody”: The mother of Hanna’s adoptive family, Rachel (played by Olivia Williams, the one out of Rushmore), who is said to be a graduate of Cambridge, espouses some dime-store 70s anti-makeup feminism and vaguely new age-y parenting philosophies, but as she appears to be neither parodistic nor thematically integral to the plot, she’s just generally annoying and ill thought out, much as “Hannb’ws interaction with kids wroth one laugh goes on too, though girl interesting characth,” which, if we look carefully, roughly translates into the idea that, while a single scene of Hanna interacting with a peer raised in a more conventional way would have been funny enough, the protracted quasi-sexual relationship between her and Rachel’s young daughter milks this notion for all its worth and then some.

• “Genuinely innovative action choreography just not enough” and “Just too coolers”: Hanna’s action sequences are variously astonishing technical achievements (except for the last one, which is a regular fight scene played out in slow motion for no apparent reason) and really the meat of this film. It’s just a shame that there are so few of them and that so much time is pissed away with scenes like those described in the previous paragraph.

• “Action sequences skirt insanity but are largely effective. Gets brazier. Too comic bookish”: I must have written this after a particularly bonkers (coolers) action sequence. Rather than getting a brazier, presumably to warm my hands, I may have been suggesting that the action sequences progress in craziness as the film does, eventually reaching a crescendo of visual incoherence.

• “Cartoon stagey intelligent agents”: I suppose it annoyed me slightly that the filmmakers took virtually no pains to render the dialogue of intelligence agents believable, but what do you want?

• “Remember to ask jim if changes show up after submission”: This was a reminder to ask the editor of this publication if I can make changes to articles after I’ve entered them into the CMS, but before they’re published.

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