Hanna: Movie Review
Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan as Hanna Heller, Eric Bana as Erik Heller and Cate Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler. It was directed by Joe Wright from a screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr and released in 2011. Saoirse Ronan is best known for her role in Atonement and Eric Bana’s most famous spy thriller role was Munich .
Warning: Major spoilers are blacked out like this secret . To view the spoilers, just highlight them.
When a teenage assassin’s mission goes wrong, she is pursued across Europe by a ruthless CIA agent and must come to terms with the secrets of her childhood in order to survive.
Hanna: Plot Summary
Hanna Heller is a 16-year-old girl. She lives in hiding with her father, Erik, in a cabin in an arctic forest.
Erik has trained Hanna from early childhood in spycraft, languages, combat and survival skills. Now he plans to use her to assassinate Marissa Wiegler, the CIA officer he blames for the death of Hanna’s mother.
Hanna is now ready for the revenge mission. She activates a homing beacon that will tell Marissa where she is. Erik checks Hanna has memorised their rendezvous point in Berlin, where he expects her to travel after the assassination. He leaves the cabin, and Hanna waits there to be captured and taken to Marissa.
In CIA captivity, Hanna repeatedly asks for Marissa. But Marissa is cautious and sends in a lookalike. Hanna kills the impostor. Believing she has fulfilled the first part of her mission, Hanna escapes from the CIA facility and finds herself in the Moroccan desert.
Back to Berlin
Hanna befriends a British family with a camper-van and hitches a ride to Spain, heading for her rendezvous. Along the way she learns a little about the modern world that she has not been a part of until now.
Marissa’s henchmen eventually track Hanna and the British family down. Hanna escapes, but the family are captured and interrogated by Marissa, who discovers Hanna is heading to Berlin.
In Berlin, Hanna goes to the rendezvous point in an abandoned fairy tale theme park. There, she meets a friend of her father’s who gives her a different address.
Marissa arrives and Hanna overhears her say that Erik is not her real father . Shocked and confused, Hanna escapes and goes to confront her father.
Nature or Nurture?
Erik admits he is not Hanna’s biological father. He was a recruiter for a program in which children had their DNA altered to make them tougher and less emotional, in the hope of developing perfect soldiers. The project was cancelled and Marissa murdered all the genetically modified children except for Hanna, who was saved by Erik.
Marissa and her henchmen arrive. Erik distracts them so Hanna can escape. Erik kills all the henchmen, but Marissa shoots him and chases Hanna back to the theme park.
Marissa corners Hanna. Hanna says she doesn’t want to kill Marissa but Marissa, who seems conflicted in her attitude to Hanna, shoots her. Hanna shoots her back with an arrow. They are both hurt, but Marissa seems more seriously injured than Hanna. Marissa disappears into a tunnel. Hanna chases after her.
About to kill Hanna, Marissa slips and slides down the water flume, dropping her gun. Hanna picks up Marissa’s gun and kills her with it.
Things are looking Grimm
Although spy themed, Hanna is really a fairy tale. Hanna herself is a successor to any number of fairy tale heroines; Marissa is the wicked witch, Erik the wise old king. The movie does lack a dashing prince to save the princess, that line of thinking being rather old fashioned these days. Teenage princesses save themselves from the big bad wolves these days.
Fairytale imagery abounds. Some of the cinematography, particularly the final showdown in the theme park, is of stunning beauty. The theme park is a real place, the Spree Park in Berlin, and once upon a time was East Germany’s flagship tourist attraction. The park went bankrupt after the Berlin Wall came down and is now abandoned, providing a perfect surreal location for the films dénouement.
Another fairy tale reference is the mirror image bookending sequences. In the opening Hanna kills a deer. At the end, she sees a deer and then kills Marissa . The first and last lines are both, ‘I just missed your heart’, making a satisfying completion of Hanna’s journey away from childhood.
Hanna scores a one out of ten on the Real-o-Meter. No sixteen year old girl no matter how genetically enhanced can fight three fully grown men at once, climb sheer cliffs and seemingly become invisible. One sequence shows Hanna leaping from a vertical shaft onto the underside of a speeding vehicle. This is so far beyond the bounds of possibility as to completely break suspension of disbelief. Another where Marissa can’t see Hanna hiding under a bed is similarly unbelievable.
Another Teenage Spy?
A teenage assassin trained by an older man? Comparisons with Leon are inevitable, and Leon is, in my opinion, the superior film. However, the movie also reminded me of Run Lola Run , in that it has a lot of visual chase sequences, all scored with pounding techno music. The soundtrack, produced by the Chemical Brothers, is prominent throughout the film.
Hanna is, loosely, a family film. It was rated PG-13 in the USA and 12 in the UK. The theme of growing up and becoming independent of both good and evil parental figures, is a perennial young adult one. Also, I’m sure the kick-ass teenager heroine will appeal to many young adults. For the adult viewer it probably holds a little less lasting interest, as the story is a straightforward one with no real twists. The revelation that Hanna is genetically engineered is so heavily telegraphed that few would be surprised by it.
One question in particular is unresolved: the fate of the family that helps Hanna. Marissa, who is holding them, has been set up as ruthless and her chief henchman is portrayed a psychopath. So, it seems clear that they would have been killed. Their deaths presumably were not shown in order to secure the PG-13/12 rating.
The Alternate Ending
The ‘alternate ending’ on the DVD is not so much a real alternate as a deleted scene. It’s a postscript showing Hanna returning to her father’s house in the woods. She puts her homemade clothes on over the modern ones she adopted on her mission, and greets her wolf pups. Her voiceover implies ‘life goes on’ which creates an optimistic feeling and, to me, weakens the wow factor of the theatrical ending.
Hanna: My Rating
A must watch if you are/have a teenager. Otherwise, a straightforward ‘suspend-disbelief’ chase thriller with great visuals and a fairy tale atmosphere.
Want to watch it?
Here’s the trailer:
The DVD is on Amazon here
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