Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reel To Reel: Hanna

The most dangerous father-educated daughter you'll ever meet.

Going Rate: Worth full price.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Action violence, mild language, naughtiness suggested by a rocking trailer

In a sentence, if you liked last year's Salt, you'll like this picture: girl chased by spooks, girl runs around like crazy getting away from spooks, girl can kill anything that walks with just her bare hands.

Quite an accomplishment, given the title character (Ronan) has been raised in a snow-covered forest by her rogue CIA agent father (Bana) for the purpose of taking out Marissa (Blanchett), the agent who brought tragedy upon their family, a woman so diabolical she has an penchant for stilettos and spotless teeth. I guess she has no last name, either, but that Southern accent is a charmer.

Hanna knows little about the world except what her father reads to her from an old encyclopedia. He fills her head with facts as if he is defining her cover, which he is. Her childhood life is confined to a book of fairy tales. Even then, she shows a detachment. Hanna knows her life will have no storybook ending or chance for her to find her prince. No, Hanna is going out there to kill Marissa. That's her happily ever after, if she can accomplish it.

Notice I don't refer to her as "home-schooled." The home-schooling families I know don't raise heavily sequestered killing machines, despite some stereotypes floating around. One of those is best expressed in a t-shirt I recently saw for home-schooling parents: "Oh... I forgot to socialize my children!" Hanna's socialization comes on the job, as she sets out with her father to get Marissa before the ops get her.

Her trek takes her through Morocco, Spain and Germany, as she links up with a free-spirited British family on what I gather is a perpetual holiday. It's here where she's exposed to some semblance of joy in the form of a girls night out. Even then, she can only allow herself so much diversion when her senses react with a hair trigger. Something as innocent as a fluorescent light comes with an aura of suspicion. Hanna is not ignorant of everyday life as much as she is defensive of it, where a potential threat could lie around every corner. Even a simple friendship to the Brits' chatty daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) comes with thick strings.

Marissa is drawn as an icily bureaucratic terminator. She is allowed no sympathy, no empathy, no moral compass. Just get rid of the girl and Dad. Eliminate the loose ends. Clean up the mess. She's just as roguish as the rogues she's tracking, if not worse. Of course, trying to take out Hanna proves to be more than a simple job, and you have to wonder how her CIA bosses would overlook a rising body count.

Hanna is an independent action thriller with a brain. I like how it doesn't drive the protagonist to a choice of her mission or her life beyond throwing in a few hints here and there. It also resists the temptation to throw in a love interest. Hanna doesn't have the time to get sucked into a Twilight-type teen heartthrob dilemma suitable for airing on the CW.

You know, maybe this film can kick off a new genre: the high-concept teen spy thriller. Hanna isn't James Bond, but I'm sure we can find someone who can cut it.

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