Forget the trouble you think you might have with a teenage daughter who smokes, drinks, swears and gets contraception from her friends in the playground then doesn’t use it anyway.
Teenage girls can be quite a handful and Hanna is way more trouble than any other daughter could be because when she throws punches – people die. She’s a ruthlessly trained assassin by her secret agent dad and with a blonde disguise over her ginger genes, she easily passes for a modern day example of the Hitler Youth.
Saoirse Ronan plays the lead role with a quiet intensity that echoes the character she played in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. But in Hanna she’s not so much ethereal as she is lethal. Eric Bana plays her warm father who has the same concerns for his little girl as any dad – he wants her to be able to defend herself and survive in a world that’s out to get her.
Cate Blanchett is a mother of sorts – mother to the subversive operation of destroying the father-daughter-killer-tag-team. But to me she looked like Julia Gillard on a ruthless rampage to restore order to a chaotic world surrounded by unreliably competent underlings.
The real success of this movie is director Joe Wright’s ability to use every prop and every location in a highly provocative and meaningful way. Playgrounds are dangerous and decayed, snow is beautiful but unkind, daddies show they care by playing rough and demanding excellence and daughters murder then apologise for not doing it as well as they should have. The loss of childhood innocence would be tragic if it even existed in the first place.
Even the support cast and extras are homeless, baseless and nomadic like the leads. Everyone is on the move or on the run. But there is no escape.
I love wonderfully choreographed hand-to-hand combat action sequences and there are quite a few in Hanna – but I long for the day directors will return to holding wider shots so we can actually see the fighting take place. The constant rush of mid shots and close-ups with fast cutting detracts from a truly emotive fight sequence. Look at the footage of the beating of Rodney King – shot by an amateur – but you can’t go past it for emotion. Hold a shot and you force the audience to watch. Every cut is a blink. And once the audience blinks – the emotional build-up is halted. Another great example of a terrifically shot fight sequence is in Coppola’s The Godfather. Watch the unbridled fury in James Caan as Sonny as he gets increasingly carried away with bashing his brother-in-law. We get vital spatial awareness thanks to wide shots held long enough to turn us into gob-smacked witnesses. Now that’s how you shoot a bashing sequence!
Hanna has the menace of A Clockwork Orange and the inevitable pathos of Nikita while providing another example of what we are doing to destroy ourselves and our future. There are plenty of films about little girls whose circumstances and parenting options prevent them from being little girls for long – The Professional, Kick Ass and even Sucker Punch to some extent. But Hanna is the broken heart of modern youth from a broken family in a broken world that has cultivated a culture of making things that break then breaking them and throwing them all away like they didn’t even matter in the first place.
Is Hanna a metaphor for raising a child in the post-modern world? What exactly do we need to teach our kids in terms of coping mechanisms and life skills? Is emotion now secondary to instinct and is that an insidiously smarter, more efficient way to live?
We never really grow up. We just get bigger like the responsibilities heaped upon us. Our lives are terminally spent on swings and roundabouts in a spiralling state of disrepair so that playing games become less and less fun. And we all witness the mutilation of our childhood by the process of becoming older and so-called wiser.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, Hanna isn’t a cheery film. It’s a grim fairytale.
Or maybe it’s me. Chances are I’ve murdered my own childhood years ago. And what this movie has done is take me back there to identify the body.
It’s worth seeing on the big screen.