26 April 2012


A common trope in science fiction is to make the protagonist an outsider. This gives the writer an excuse to explain the fantastic, unfamiliar world that the story is set in to his audience. The introduction of Luke Skywalker into the confliction of Rebellion vs. Empire allows gives Obi-Wan Kenobi an opening to explain this conflict to the audience. Hanna inverts this trope: an outsider is being introduced to an unfamiliar culture, but the culture is our own. It is turned from a tool for exposition into a tool for critique, highlighting the positive and negative aspects of modern society. Hanna learns about make-up, friendship, appliances, music, and romance; in the process, we learn that things we take for granted, things we consider normal, can be both bizarre and enchanting.

This is a film about Hanna, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed supergirl who has been raised by her father to be the ultimate badass. She hunts elk. She fights CIA agents. She not only has an encyclopaedic knowledge of geography and biology but also speaks a dozen languages. Hanna documents her transition from her childhood home--a small cabin in a snowy forest--into the modern world (while being hunted by the CIA). It is thrilling, violent, poignant and thoughtful.

Hanna takes a negative tone towards modernity. The film's violence is mostly urban, taking place in a sterile military compound, a maze of shipping crates, and an unspecified concrete area underneath a city. In contrast, natural settings, such as forests, deserts, and oceans, are places of calm beauty and familial bonding. Tense moments are scored with slick, grinding electronic beats; blissful moments are given elegant acoustic guitars and the natural hum of human voices. More explicitly, a wise motherly character speaks out against the city, saying that it stifles creativity. Hanna is overwhelmed and terrified by the abundance of sensory stimulation that she finds in her new environment. And her inability to cope with experiences we encounter daily is all the more striking because of her ability to kill trained government agents and evade ruthless German gangsters.

Ironically, Hanna is exhilarating. The film criticizes the way modern society constantly overloads our senses, but at the same time, it puts great effort into being sensually exciting. Fights are accompanied by loud music and dramatic lighting. A long, uncut take adds to the tension as a character is followed through city streets.  Hanna's sleepover with Sophie is done in intimate closeups and warm shades of beige, red and pink. After the prologue, the film blasts its title into your retinas with a jagged font against a bloody red background. Hanna is attention-grabbing, both sonically and visually. It immerses us in the action in ways that are novel, stylish and very modern.

Considering it is an action thriller about a badass nature girl, Hanna's story has emotional depth. It covers coming-of-age, jealousy, parent-child relationships, responsibility, deception, etc. While these themes are mostly only lightly touched on or hinted at, their presence makes the movie more lush and enjoyable. Hanna is not merely a killing spree and a societal critique. It has life.

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