Screening Log #30: Hanna (2011)

Written by Seth Lochhead and David Farr
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, and Erica Bana




What if Over the Top was about deadly international spies instead of arm-wrestling truck drivers? The result would maybe – if given a technically proficient director, solid actors, pounding score, interesting cinematography… basically if it was nothing like Over the Top at all, beyond the idea of a single dad struggling to raise a child – look something like Joe Wright’s Hanna. The film begins with an inviting scenario, a young woman hunts a deer with a bow and arrow and gets ambushed by her father, then demonstrates their ascetic lives, before opening into an entirely other sort of chase-oriented action-thriller with sci-fi elements and certainly many hyphens.

One of the only books, aside from an encyclopedia, memorized verbatim, that Hanna, Saoirse Ronan, has is a book of Grimm’s fairy tales. She reads this book by firelight after training with her father Erik, Eric Bana, and learning what seems like every language. Hanna, the film, takes on a structure that recalls these fairy tales, building on themes of identity and family – i.e., who is Hanna and what is her history? – while repeating the sort of natural imagery of these tales. Hanna grows weary of living in the wilderness with her father and alerts Marissa, a government operative, a chilly southern Cate Blanchett, to their location. The cabin is raided and Hanna is captured, and questioned before escaping to rendezvous with her father in Germany at the Grimm brother’s house. What follows is a country-hopping chase as Hanna runs from Morocco to Spain, pursued by Marissa and her agents. Hanna bonds with an English family she happens upon, making her first human connections, before reaching Germany and an unavoidable end-game with Marissa.

Wright is a technically talented director, interestingly utilizing a wintery colour palette for Hanna. However, he often over-plays his hand. Wright employs several long tracking shots through the film that, while technically impressive, call attention to his direction more than they inform the proceedings – a shipyard chase doing this most egregiously. Hanna’s escape from holding is staged like a music video, replete with strobe lighting and disorienting camera movements that overplay their task of complementing Hanna’s situation. The score by the Chemical Brothers is equally over-bearing in its foregrounding in the film, pulsing above the action. These elements, when put to more subtle use, could work well to enhance the film as a whole; here the parts compete for attention, isolating strong elements of a good film, pulling at the threads of its seams.

Hanna functions well, if entirely without subtlety, as an action film. Its acting is all strong, it is stylishly – perhaps over-stylishly – crafted, and has a consistent frame of reference for its structure and imagery. There may be some sympathetic connection, in the end, between this film’s flashy strokes of style and the blunt manner that the Grimm’s tales were structured, but importantly the two are different mediums; perhaps being an appropriately constructed homage is not enough.


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