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Thursday, April 7, 2011 12:38 am

Distinctive heroine separates Hanna from the pack

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Joe Wright’s Hanna owes a debt not only to Grimm’s Fairy Tales, allusions to which permeate the film, but also to the recent spate of superhero movies. Thankfully, it’s far better than last year’s Kick-Ass and the recent disaster Sucker Punch, both of which featured butt-kicking teen heroines that made the mistake of thinking that simply having comely characters display bone-rattling girl power was enough to make them distinctive. What separates Wright’s film from those misguided efforts is that the director takes the time to flesh out the title character, giving her a genuine sense of purpose and a reason for audiences to sympathize with her as she proceeds inexorably towards her goal.

Wright and scriptwriters Seth Lochhead and David Farr keep us off guard but intrigued during the film’s first hour as we know little of Hanna’s (Saoirse Ronan) past but are immediately curious as to how she’s become a fierce hand-to-hand warrior and proficient in at least five languages by the age of 16. Her father, Erik (a never better Eric Bana), has raised her in the arctic wilds of Finland and has told her it’s time for her to enter the outside world by tripping a signal to let Marissa (Cate Blanchett), a ruthless CIA operative, know their whereabouts. Once this is done, Hanna is taken by the agency, put in a holding cell and asks to see Marissa. Good thing they send a decoy in as the girl soon kills her as well as two guards before fleeing her prison, setting up an intriguing game of cross-country cat-and-mouse.

A wicked sense of dark humor drives the film and helps temper its violence. Told as an inverted fairy tale (check out Blanchett’s witchlike hair and the color scheme of her attire), the film sports a gallery of grotesques, including Tom Hollander as the tennis-suit clad assassin Isaacs, none of who belong in our world but have invaded it to settle an old score. Wright delivers some impressive set pieces, among them a one-man assault on Marissa’s apartment by Erik and a thrilling foot chase during the film’s climax, which are strung together by one dramatic revelatory moment after another that sheds light on Hanna’s origin and purpose. What elevates Hanna above similar exercises is that it takes the time to develop its warrior’s character, which makes all the difference in the world.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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