Hanna (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner
Couple things wrong with Hanna. No movie seen since more recalls Black Swan. Strengths similar. Strong central performance intersects ostentatious directorial style. Former never wavers, latter offers bursts of visual pleasure—e.g., prison-suited Saoirse Ronan escaping evil subterranean complex with pinpoint pistolry through pulsating flourescent light à la Goldeneye on N64, with the Chemical Brothers’ tribal electro jizz giving it to you in the ear. Or over the hodgepodge of land-, ethno-, aestheti-scapes the undisciplined script leapfrogs—Nordic forest pocked with ice floes dancing Wes Andersonianly, X-Files-ish Moroccan desert, Syriana-style city-state on eve of generic Arabian reverie, dueñde-eyed Flamenco dancers (whose feet we never see…) clapping in the glow of a bonfire—but like Black Swan, or the actioner of yore Hanna sadly most reminded me of, Boondock Saints, the overdosing on slow-motion, cheesy outfits, inorganic battles, and plotting discontinuity reduces our portrait of the titular naïf and her struggles to an excuse to peacock Joe Wright’s directorial tailfeathers. We can give Wright an “A” for effort—trying to hoist the genre out of a swamp sticky with little else but the buttsweat of Jason Statham—but as bad poetry repeatedly teaches us, a high-gloss literary stylism is no panacea, and often ends up offending us more than things that are meaningless, nakedly.
Cate Blanchett’s evil stepmother isn’t scary enough. One problem common to all bad action movies, no matter who they star or how florid their mise-en-scène: we never actually fear for our main character. I don’t think this is a difficult problem to solve. You don’t do it by weakening your hero. You strengthen your villain. If the big bad wolf is actually a big bad wolf, and little red riding hood defeats her, as we knew she would, that can still thrill us, especially if we don’t know—or can’t imagine given a set of seemingly incredible odds—how the inevitable reversal will be architected. But if the big bad wolf is just one woman with a gun stomping bureaucratically around in “scary forest green” half-inch heels, and little red riding hood is a genetically-engineered badass who has already effortlessly slaughtered a small army of armed guards in a high-security compound controlled by the CIA ten stories beneath the Moroccan desert, it’s hard for me to fear for her life. It’s hard for the endless chase scenes that power-fuck their way through Hanna to transcend routine. The only times I really sense Hanna’s humanity is when she adopts herself into a normal family of British travelers and almost has her first kiss, makes her first friend, and experiences adolescent intimacy’s sweet sting. I wish this would’ve been more of the movie. Or I wish the obligatory action orgy that gobbled it up would’ve had even a glint of equivalent ambiguity.