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Review: Hanna

Hanna is the story of a girl raised in complete isolation with her father Erik (Eric Bana), who is training her to be the perfect killing machine. Elsewhere, ruthless CIA operative, Marissa (Cate Blanchette, doing her best Dixie) is tracking Hanna and her father down, with what seems like an endless supply of agents to send after them.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, proving herself with each new role) was trained her entire life for this, but it is an entirely different scenario when she is left on her own and then the isolation and danger becomes shockingly real. Erik and Hanna represent an inordinate threat to the United States, no amount of money or minions is too high to neutralize the father/daughter duo.

If the plot seems familiar, it’s because it is: The Bourne Identity, Salt and countless other action films have used it before. The promise of Hanna lies in deconstructing that concept. Joe Wright is not the type to make mindless, shaky-cam, actioners (he is known for period pieces like Pride and Prejudice) and because of that one assumes the big appeal of directing Hanna was actively seeking to blow up the genre. That said, he knows how to make a stylish film, the muted aesthetic and rhythmic score by the Chemical Brothers blends quite nicely.

Sure, audiences love action films – they love them a lot, take a look at the final box office numbers of any given year and at least half of the top ten will be action films – but will moviegoers still be drawn in when you swap out Matt Damon/Tom Cruise/etc. with an innocent looking blue-eyed teenage girl, fresh as the new fallen snow?

Oddly enough, the last two years have been quite the year for female protagonists throwing their weight around. All of these flicks feature small girls as assassins, but where Chloe Moretz launches off into the deep end Saoirse Ronan takes it all in with her eyes and makes Hanna a true character profile. Sucker Punch also went for the same market, but where Zack Snyder failed was thinking he made a girl power film, when really he made a nice music video. Emily Browning‘s Baby Doll knew how to handle a weapon, but she never knew how to handle herself outside of being in a man’s grasp. The sexualization of the characters rendered the feminism aspect of Sucker Punch useless. Fortunately, Hanna avoids all these pratfalls.

By taking a standard formula and turning it on its head, Wright has done what few other directors have: make the lone man – in this case girl – against the giant bureaucracy relevant again. Hanna is ostensibly about loving gun-toting and kicking ass, but as Hanna discovers her own humanity in the midst of such violence, the real story comes clear.

***/****

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