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Hanna: Movie Review

Hanna stars Saoirse Ronan as Hanna Heller, Eric Bana as Erik Heller and Cate Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler. Joe Wright directed it from a screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr and released it 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 [blackout]secret[/blackout]. To view the spoilers, just highlight them.

Hanna starring Saoirse Ronan

Hanna: Title

The title is the name of the Protagonist of the story, a classic title archetype.

(For more on titles, see How to Choose a Title For Your Novel)

Hanna: Logline

When a teenage assassin’s mission goes wrong, a ruthless CIA agent pursues her across Europe and she must come to terms with the secrets of her childhood in order to survive.

(For how to write a logline, see The Killogator Logline Formula)

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 for the CIA to capture her and take her 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 Marissa captures the family and interrogates them, discovering 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 [blackout]Erik is not her actual father[/blackout]. Shocked and confused, Hanna escapes and goes to confront her father.

Nature or Nurture?

Erik [blackout]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, hoping to develop perfect soldiers. The CIA cancelled the project and Marissa murdered all the genetically modified children except for Hanna, who Erik saved.[/blackout]

Marissa [blackout]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.[/blackout]

Marissa [blackout]corners Hanna. Hanna says she doesn’t want to kill Marissa, but Marissa, who seems conflicted in her attitude toward 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.[/blackout]

About [blackout]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.[/blackout]

Hannah starring Kate Blanchett

(For more on summarising stories, see How to Write a Novel Synopsis)

Hanna: Analysis

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 is 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 an actual 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 scene for the film’s dénouement.

Another fairy tale reference is the mirror image book-ending sequences. In the opening, Hanna kills a deer. At the end, she sees a deer [blackout]and then kills Marissa[/blackout]. The first and last lines are both, ‘I just missed your heart’, making a satisfying completion of Hanna’s journey away from childhood.

The Real-o-Meter

Hanna scores a one out of ten on the Real-o-Meter. No sixteen-year-old girl [blackout]no matter how genetically enhanced [/blackout] 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 break suspension of disbelief completely. 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, because 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. The USA rated it PG-13 and the UK 12. 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 straightforward with no real twists. The revelation that [blackout]Hanna is genetically engineered[/blackout] is so heavily telegraphed that few would be surprised by it.

Loose Ends

One question is unresolved: the fate of the family that helps Hanna. Marissa, who is holding them, is ruthless, and her chief henchman is a psychopath. So, it seems clear that they would have been killed. Presumably, we don’t see their deaths 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 fairytale atmosphere.

Want to watch it?

Here’s the trailer:

The DVD is on Amazon US here and Amazon UK here.

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