When it kicks ass, it destroys, but there just ain’t enough to balance out the boring rest of it.
Hanna is about a teenage girl who lives with her father in the Arctic tundra and has spent her short life being molded by her pops into a perfect killing machine for the sole purpose of snuffing out a mysterious woman who she’s never even met. So when she finally reaches the peak of her abilities and starts wondering what life is like for 16-year-old girls who don’t know how to hunt and dress reindeer, her pops gives her free reign to open pandora’s box and within a matter of hours she finds herself in a secret service holding cell. These military chumps underestimate her, she proceeds to raise hell before breaking out like a total boss, and then she catches a lift with some road-trippin’ family who helps her learn about the real world while she’s being hunted down by the said mysterious woman.
So it’s directed by Joe Wright, and for someone who’s made a name for himself with stuff like Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, this isn’t exactly familiar territory for the guy. As far as I know, Jane Austen wasn’t exactly what you’d call an adrenaline junkie, but more power to Wright for pulling a full 180 and totally rocking the most important parts that a whole lot of seasoned action directors can’t even get right. I mean, you watch something like Atonement and it comes off clear as day that this guy knows what the hell he’s doing behind the camera, and in that regard, this genre actually seems like a natural progression even if the final product left me pretty underwhelmed. But I’ll get to the Debbie Downer stuff later, ’cause let me tell you about these action scenes…
Alright, there’s a handful of ’em here, and for the most part they didn’t really do a whole lot for me, but there were two parts in particular that felt like a kick to the brain in the best way possible. The first is when Hanna busts out of her holding cell and leaves a sea of gun-toting goons in her wake, the second is this stunning continuous shot that starts with Hanna’s dad getting off a bus and ends with him as the only dude left standing in a six-on-one train station death match. The first feels like a music video mixed with a rave mixed with the final showdown from The Professional, and the second is just freaking’ gorgeous with all its invisible cuts and baited progression from perfectly normal to life-or-death. When those scenes were happening, this movie was floating a verdict of 8 or 9 and Joe Wright deserves a high-thirty of the highest order for putting those together as well as he did.
And the original soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers really is something else. Never really listened to them before, but this is one of those things that couldn’t have been more fitting and will make you want to start getting familiar.
But as unforgettable and awesome as those two scenes were, the rest of the movie makes them seem like a blip on the radar, and I guess that’s because the writing is so damn disappointing, or at least disappointing in comparison. Take, for instance, the huge chunk of time that Hanna spends with the family on their vacation where she tries to fit in even though it’s pretty obvious to everyone around her that something’s up with this girl. It’s one of those detours that I’ve seen before and hoped wouldn’t be coming, but alas, it came, completely sapped the pacing, overstayed its welcome, and added nothing to story nor made me care any more about Hanna in the least. And by the time all the plot twists and reveals finally come around, they don’t come as a surprise because of the blatant hints along the way that let you see everyone’s hands way before the cards are laid out on the table. I don’t know, the structure here is just bizarre and continually shoots itself in the foot for reasons I don’t understand.
As if that wasn’t enough, the ending is ultimately decided by the kind of shoes that Cate Blanchett decided to wear and how they probably weren’t the most practical choice when setting out on a global manhunt. Just a completely disappointing, copout way to wrap things up and avoid a golden opportunity to give us some “wow” factor.
But the cast is solid and I can’t fault them for any of this shit. Saorsie Ronan runs train and pulls it off with ease as Hanna; Cate Blanchett plays a good heartless bitch as Hanna’s target, Marissa (even if I have no idea how she manages to stick around so long against the likes of Hanna and her dad); and Erica Bana ain’t bad as Hanna’s dad, either. Man, it’s nice to see Bana in a good movie for once. Hasn’t been in a good movie since Chopper. What’s up with that?
Anyway, it’s rare that I find myself knocking a movie because I wish it had more action and less talking, but when the action is this good and the talking is this blah, Hanna would have been so much better if everyone had just shut the hell up and let the fists/Chemical Brothers do the talking. It’s still enjoyable, but it’s your textbook case of style over substance and altogether a pretty forgettable experience with the exception of those two stellar throwdowns and the fluidity that Wright creates amidst chaos. But like I said, props to the guy for trying something new even if he was already knocking ’em dead with British period pieces. Would love to see him take another stab at it if he can find a script that’s as good as his camerawork.