Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Just Missed My Heart: A Review of Hanna

     Recently, I saw last year's film Never Let Me Go, about children growing up and slowly realizing that their life is much different from other youngsters. They were brought up for a specific purpose, to benefit mankind in a very controversial way. Never Let Me Go is a slow-moving, beautifully-filmed coming-of-age story. Why this mention of 2010's art-house film about children born with a predetermined path? Well, 2011's Hanna, at it's core, is also a movie about a child who was born because of controversial government-decided reasons. It's also beautifully-filmed. But it sure isn't slow-moving: from it's opening bow-and-arrow killing to all of the violent outbursts throughout the film, Hanna (with its pounding music and quick camera work) is always in a state of urgency that many action thrillers can only aspire to duplicate. Unfortunately, with its toned-down PG-13 rating, all of this urgency doesn't add up to much more than an emotionless girl on a tame killing spree for reasons that don't really matter.
    When you first see Hanna, its quite easy to determine that she is a quick and efficient killing machine. Hunting a deer in the woods with a bow, she is one among the snow and birch trees. As she's gutting her kill, we meet her father as he sneaks up behind her and utters the words (words Hanna hears plenty of), "You're dead." Soon enough, assumptions can be made: Hanna and her dad, Erik, live deep in the forest and fend for themselves (kind of a ruthless Alone in the Wilderness). Her pops has (for reasons not yet apparent) taught her how to kill in just about any way imaginable, with both weapons and hand-to-hand. When these reasons do become apparent, Hanna will have to go on the fight of her life. Erik is an agent of some sort, apparently with skills so fucking great that a few certain CIA members (one in particular, portrayed by Cate Blanchett in a nothing-but-villainous role) are getting their panties in a bunch to try and find him and the girl. Erik eventually realizes that the time has come to release his creation into the real world.
    This release is where some of the excitement and some of the problems lie: the opening of the film, before Hanna's dad sicks her onto the CIA agents, is a lot like the Grimm fairy tales that Hanna reads by the light of the fire late at night. She and her father are alone in the woods, in a simple home built by bare hands, hunting for their meals. The training montages are typical but exciting, and the cinematography is beautiful. Once Hanna experiences the real world, techno music kicks in and we are bombarded with the technology and industrialization that one would encounter when first witnessing the hi-tech environment. I get it: we're supposed to feel bombarded with these sounds and images, because it causes us to relate to Hanna on a much higher level, since she is experiencing it for the first time. But I couldn't help but wish that film was more like the beginning: quiet and thoughtful. The excitement builds and builds, but when it explodes we're left with tame PG-13 killings, and most of the violence takes place off screen (a problem that Sucker Punch dealt with too). Many critics have been mentioning 2010's Kick-Ass in their reviews for Hanna, due to the fact that both films have young teenage girls disposing of people without emotion: The difference is that Kick-Ass was funny, fun, vulgar and extremely violent, where Hanna is just pretty to look at (the movie not that character, you pedophiles).
     Hanna is a good movie. It's just easier to focus on the negatives when I feel that it had so much more potential, like a teenage version of Kill Bill. A lot of the film deals with Hanna's experiences with normal, everyday life that she has never had to chance to encounter. For instance, she meets up with a family and gains her first looks at friendship and romance. That's all well and good, but the movie sets us up for explosions of revenge and violence, and they are just too few and far between. And when they do come, the audience (at least myself) is so desensitized due to viewing films like the Bourne franchise and Kick-Ass that nothing really got my blood pumping. The excitement didn't match the expectations.     (B-)

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