By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Being associated with various notions and potions, revolving and evolving from the fairy tales and animal wails created by the Brothers Grimm, the non-action packed, somewhat of a vague thriller Hanna, fails in science, strains in action and feigns in suspense. London-borne director Joe Wright tries to pull off a French Luc Besson-ish film with the pacing of an old style Swedish art house movie and the emotion of an English post-Victorian ballroom dance.
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a pseudo-wee waif of a lass being primed by her “dad” (Eric Bana) in the frigid forests of Finland to Finnish the fight against the ferocious synonymous big-bad wolfen Marissa (Cate Blanchard), whose aging frayed fangs fry with snuffing a DNA experiment that has gone creepily correct.
From the opening metaphorical shot of ice flow looking like white blood cells flowing through a vascular system, seeking to destroy foreign agents in our tundra of existence, Hanna is the vaccine responsible for hunting down Cate’s cancerous CIA character in Wright’s “Red Riding Hood” hood.
There are those that have been equating Hanna to Bourne (The Bourne Identity; 2002) and Nikita (La Femme Nikita; 1990) but the heavy subtle influence (either purposefully or unwittingly) is Christina Lindberg’s Frigga in the only martial arts film made in Sweden during the 1970s, They Call Her One Eye (1974). Incidentally and/or coincidently, the Swedish title of that film is En Grym Film. It’s about a teen that learns martial arts and how to shoot a gun in order to exact revenge on a villainous manipulator.
The problem with non-scientists expounding upon DNA cloning and recombination experiments is conveniently using the probability and possibility of something they have no clue what they’re writing about, and assuming the average moviegoer doesn’t too. Ironically, Bana experienced this same snafu when he starred in Hulk (2003), a film that got so bogged down in trying to convince the audience about the plausible viability of why David Banner could become the Hulk that the movie drew a lot of negativity.
In keeping with the European motif, as Hanna so quaintly and eloquently reflects, the film’s plot has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. In as much as we want to cheer for Hanna, as she grows her wings and goes on a metamorphic flight around Africa and Europe, the lives of the innocent people she learns from, to her, are ultimately not important as she somewhat coldly forgets and moves on to her next adventure, leaving death in their wake.
This may not have been the intention of the filmmakers but it is quite apparent that because Hanna is still a child, and like a child the consequence of her action, which is common in today’s vibrant youth…well, in their views…there is no consequence to worry about.
The well worn “action-packed” cliché used to describe this sort of film is becoming painfully bothersome as it summons the challenge to really dissect just how much action this “wall to wall action” flick has. Well, this 110-minute movie has around 20 minutes of real action, 3 minutes or so of it being well-worn martial arts, the rest of it being chase sequences. Although I do applaud an unedited five-second sequence of movements Bana does during a short fight sequence shot in an underground walkway in Berlin.
A decent amount of time is spent at the beginning of the film showing Hanna’s training as she develops her martial arts and shooting skill sets, yet ultimately the payback for all of this is at the least minimal. Usually these sequences are clues for what is to come, and a little of it does come back, but even then that is so thwarted that it leaves you thinking, “Now, how did that happen?”
It is obvious that Wright muddled up the martial arts training and action sequences, thinking that anyone can direct these sequences and make them look cool in editing. Time was spent on showing Hanna adamantly practicing Filipino escrima stick-fighting with her father Erik, the two clacking the weapons away in knee deep snow, cold breath snarling out of their chilled lungs like dragon smoke.
Next she’s doing pull ups, sharp shooting at hanging reindeer horns wafting in the wind and martial arts sparring (incorrectly being advertised as mixed martial arts (MMA); yet another lash in Wright’s eye pain of inexperience or ignorance). These things either don’t appear later on in the film or their payoff is so weak that it’s like drinking tea with one tea leaf in it…the notion of the flavor is there but it’s a flavorless flavor.
On the positive front, just like Luc Besson’s Fifth Element has a strong techno-punch sound track, Hanna’s marvelous musical goal is scored by the Chemical Brothers, a blaring, funkaholic-thumping screech of frenzy.