Turning kids into something scary or dangerous is a popular subject for films. It’s probably the inherent dichotomy between shooting people and cute faces. You would never suspect them if you met them for real. As such, the idea of a teenage girl being trained as an assassin from birth is not a new idea. They did it in The Professional and Kill Bill and childhood training or brainwashing is in the back stories of most of the adult assassins (Salt, Hitman, etc.) So the premise of Hanna is not exactly new.
A sixteen year old girl trained as an assassin by her father is released from isolation in their Artic hideout and unleashed upon her target: a crooked CIA agent.
So director Joe Wright and writers Seth Lochhead and David Farr needed to bring something new and different to the table if they wanted anyone to pay attention to their movie. The ideas they came up with were: 1) have Hanna’s assassination mission turn into a coming of age story, and 2) have the Chemical Brothers write the whole soundtrack. And Hanna turned out to be pretty enjoyable. At least while you’re watching it. Unfortunately, it rapidly unravels on closer inspection.
We start in the Arctic, where Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is hunting a deer (which I’m pretty sure is actually a Caribou). She shoots it with an arrow, but instead of dropping dead it runs off and she has to chase it all over hell and high water before it finally collapses and she shoots it in the head with the line: “I just missed your heart.” She sits down to gut it, whereupon she is immediately pretend killed by her dad, Erik Heller (Eric Bana) and then they get in a furious fistfight (not a real one, he’s not THAT kind of Dad).
Like Karate Kid crossed with Nanook of the North.
Hanna insists that she’s “ready” now, and after a bit of dithering, Erik gives her a transponder and takes off, leaving her to begin her mission alone. That mission: hunt down and kill someone named Marissa Weigler. On first watching, an innocent looking teenage girl shooting deer in the face, screaming like a banshee, and trying to snap her own dad’s neck is pretty shocking and impressive. However, looking back you’ll start to ask questions, like:
Why, if Hanna can’t hit a deer in the heart and isn’t paying enough attention to not get attacked while cleaning it, is she ready to go on a mission? Why, if Erik is a good enough fighter to teach his daughter to be an assassin, didn’t he eliminate the target years ago himself? And why does he leave her to do the mission alone, when two assassins working together would be twice as deadly?
HANNA: Dad, aren’t you coming?
ERIK: No no, you can’t come of age with me hanging around. See ya!
Hanna is picked up by some soldiers and taken to an underground facility. She asks to see Marissa Weigler, and the real Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett), watching remotely from somewhere else, sends a decoy (Michelle Dockery) in her stead. Hanna promptly snaps the woman’s neck, kills all the guards, and takes off. Her escape from the facility is akin to a music video as the Chemical Brothers’ music throbs in time with the lights in the tunnels.
Which is distracting, to say the least.
Hanna thinks her mission is done, so now all she has to do is get from Morocco to Germany to meet up with her dad. Despite the fact that she’s dressed in orange prison garb and has wandered out of the empty desert, she is immediately accepted by a British girl around her own age named Sophie (Jessica Barden) and her little brother Miles (Aldo Maland), who are on vacation in their caravan.
So, like, did you just fall out of a plane and land in the desert or summat?
Now Hanna switches from an action film to a coming of age movie, but not completely, because Marissa has dispatched a trio of German perv-assassins led by Isaacs (Tom Hollander) to track her down and capture her. This makes perfect sense at the time, but looking back, you’ll start to wonder: why, if killing Marissa was important enough to Erik that he would spend sixteen years training an assassin, didn’t he show her a frigging photograph so she could at least be sure she was killing the right person? Isn’t seeing a photo of the target the first lesson in Assassinations 101?
Anyway Sophie and Miles accept Hanna, an unsocialized weirdo from the woods whose hair looks like it was washed in dish soap and styled in a wind tunnel, into their circle unbelievably fast. Also unbelievable is how only the children’s dad (Jason Felmyng) thinks it’s weird that she’ traveling around Morocco alone with no luggage, no money, and no supervision.
And least her hair looks realistic, given her upbringing.
So while Hanna is discovering friendship and kissing and family life and fun and music and television remote controls and parties and riding on motorcycles with boys, the weird Germans are following her. There’s a furious battle when they catch up, and despite the fact that Hanna single handedly murdered about fifteen armed, military-trained guards at the underground facility, somehow all three of the Germans live to fight another day.
Come on, Hanna, you could take all three out with a tire iron right now.
She spends a lot of time running and hiding from these goons, who shouldn’t have warranted much more than a fifteen-second karate chop to the throat. Why? Most likely because the writers couldn’t think of anything else to throw at her, so they had to keep the one set of goons around. Or, if you want a solution that’s organic to the story, you can always say she learned it from her dad, because while Hanna is fleeing from her Germans, Erik is fleeing from Marissa, who is of course not dead.
Erik, come on, turn around and kick her ass!
Given Erik’s mad skills, Marissa, who is obsessed with brushing her teeth and is dumb enough to program her personal safe with the code “1-2-3-4-5-6” (watch closely while she’s opening it), shouldn’t have warranted more than a ten second bullet to the head, but just like in Hanna’s storyline, they needed to drag it out so the movie wouldn’t be too short.
Bang bang! You’re dead, movie over.
They also threw in a kind of mystery subplot revolving around who and what Hanna really is, presumably so that Hanna can discover something Erik hid from her and trot out that ol’ faithful “you lied to me!” line when they finally meet up again. I won’t tell you what/who she really is, just that it’s a generic and uninspired secret that has been used in too many action movies and video games to count. She also discovers it by using the ol’ faithful Google search, despite the fact that she has never seen a computer before and was confused and overwhelmed by the light switch, telephone, electric kettle, and TV remote in her primitive Moroccan hotel room.
HANNA: It says I’m a freak.
EVERYONE: Well duh.
The end features the expected showdown between Hanna and the real Marissa, which cleverly recalls some of the things that happen in earlier sequences, but stops abruptly at the end of the battle, leaving dozens of dangling plot threads. I found it very dissatisfying. If you were only watching it for the action you might not mind, but if you actually found her coming of age/friendship/family subplot elements interesting, you’ll be disappointed, because they get no resolution. Overall, I liked Hanna while I was watching it. It was action-packed and the music was cool, but on retrospect I like it less and less the more I think about it.