After seeing an Ebert review of three and a half stars, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 72 and reading Orson Scott Card’s column, I decided to take a mini-vacation Sunday night at the movies to watch Hanna.
This mystery fairy tale turned action movie combines strong filmmaking techniques, striking music, exotic locales and culture shock into an almost two-hour ride on the edge of your seat.
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a sixteen year old girl who is brought up by her father (Eric Bana, the protagonist in The Time Traveler’s Wife) in the arctic woods of Finland. She knows very little about the world, people, customs or cultures.
She does know a lot about combat. With expert knowledge of weapons of all types, she is a sharpshooter with a rifle, a hand gun and bow and arrow. Using martial arts, she can throw men twice her size, break their arms and snap their necks to kill them. She is fast and lethal.
Besides English, her father also taught her fluent Spanish, German, Italian, French and Arabic, to list only those languages I heard her speak. In addition, her world knowledge seems to have been gained by rote memorization of a set of encyclopedia.
In other words, she’s supergirl.
Supergirl has super enemies who are super deadly. The pace does not let up. The movie engulfs you in a constant rapid pace of action, reminiscent of the Bourne movies by Matt Damon. It’s entertaining, riveting and enjoyable to watch. Who does not like to see a little blond helpless-looking girl, like Carrie, beat the crap out of Euro-trash thugs, ruthless CIA operatives, medical experimenters and government interrogators. There is entertainment value in all that.
I did have difficulty with a lot of the concepts and the story in this movie. To make it seem mysterious, the story played in Finland, then in the deserts of Morocco, then in Berlin. The bad guys in Morocco follow her to Berlin, but it’s not clear how she or the bad guys get there. It’s a long way from Morocco to Berlin, but they seem to all have just teleported there, even their cars, and the clothes on their backs. The culture clashes are used to make the movie exotic. Senseless dance sequences in Morocco, where she speaks fluent Arabic, are interspersed for no apparent reason. The Spanish boyfriends she and her new friend pick up speak English, I assume to help the plot along, and when he tries to kiss her, with her apparent solicitation and permission, she all but breaks his neck. In Berlin, the action takes place in rotted out theme parks and dilapidated vacation centers for good movie imagery and no other purpose. Hanna does a lot of running, running after wounded deer in the Finnish snow, running from military guys in Humvees in Morocco, running from thugs and CIA operatives in Berlin.
After it was all over I still didn’t understand why. Why did she “come out” and push the red button in the first place (I am not saying more to prevent spoilers)? Why did the CIA woman Marissa (Cate Blanchett) hate her so much and why did she want to kill her so badly? Why did she and her father split up just to get together again in Berlin? I am sure there are good reasons for all of that, and I am sure I am missing critical details that would put it together for me.
Somehow, after leaving the theater, I had the feeling that the whole thing was put together in a contrived fashion not to tell a story, but to simply keep me riveted and entertained. I was not supposed to think that much, just watch and enjoy.
But I couldn’t. A cerebral ex-CIA-type father would simply not behave the way her father did. A sixteen year old girl does not kill humans so easily when she’s never seen any. It was like I was watching a cartoon.
High mark for entertainment value. Very low mark for brain value.