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With: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Barden, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Aldo Maland, Vicky Krieps, Tom Hollander, John MacMillan, Tim Beckmann, Jamie Beamish, Tom Hodgkins, Michelle Dockery, Mohamed Majd, Sebastian H�lk, Joel Basman, Gudrun Ritter, Martin Wuttke
Written by: Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Directed by: Joe Wright
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language
Running Time: 111
Date: 07/04/2011

Hanna (2011)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Girl Warrior

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hanna is what a futuristic chase movie might look like if Michelangelo Antonioni had decided to make one: eerily framed, and entirely based on the relationship between the characters and their environment, where absences are as important as things present. Joe Wright is the director here, and he leaves behind everything he has previously done. He seems hardened and full of fury, perhaps a response at the unfair way his The Soloist (2009) was received. Hanna is stripped-down, fast, and fantastic.

As it begins, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is living with her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the snowy woods. She has spent her life learning to hunt, to defend herself, and to speak various languages, as well as other practical skills. At this point, she determines that she is "ready," and so Erik unearths a metal box. Inside is a switch. If Hanna flicks a switch, then Marissa Weigler will know where they are. And the game will be on.

Marissa Weigler is a secret agent leftover from the Bush era (she even has a Southern accent). She and Erik have some dark history involving the death of Erik's wife/lover Johanna, which is best left unexplained. Essentially, when the switch is flicked, Erik begins hiking to the coast, while Hanna waits to be picked up. Her mission is to kill Marissa, which she does, although there's a mix-up and Hanna escapes into the desert not knowing she has failed.

After walking a good ways through the baking, dusty desert heat, an ordinary family (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) with a son (Aldo Maland) and a gabby teen daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) pick her up in their RV. But before long, some brutal killers -- led by a nasty, brilliantly-cast Tom Hollander -- are after her, and she must face them without endangering her new friends.

The plot doesn't seem like much, but there's really quite a bit here. The clashing personalities alone create a lot of friction, from Erik's simple, naturalistic skills to Marissa's high-tech operations, and her obsession with dental equipment. The traveling family seems to always argue about how to raise children: either with independence, or with strict guidance. (Hanna seems to have had both, in the extreme.) Then there's Hanna, who is both highly trained in combat and weapons, and totally naïve about things like music, clothes, food, and even electricity. Her polar opposite is Sophie, whose entire life revolves around things that have been advertised for her. The movie treats all these folks with respect, as if they all have the option to be "right."

Then we have Wright's action sequences. In Atonement (2007), he delivered one bravura, five-minute shot of the Dunkirk evacuation, but Hanna is filled, wall-to-wall, with shots easily as good. No matter what happens to Hanna, the landscape is a part of her drama. Walking across the desert, she wears her prison garb, a shapeless orange jumpsuit; it clashes with the harsh sun and with Hanna's blond hair and blond eyebrows. There are chase scenes in the snow, down metallic corridors lit with flashing lights, graffiti-covered subway tunnels, and -- best of all -- in a rundown amusement park filled with broken fiberglass dinosaurs and upside-down mushrooms. Unlike most other action movies, Wright understands that shakiness and chaos really does nothing for viewers; this entire, visual, physical experience is how it should be done.

Add to this an extraordinary score by the techno group The Chemical Brothers; it's very similar to the score that Daft Punk recorded for last year's Tron: Legacy, but here used more sparingly. The first thumping, gnashing, driving notes don't appear until at least ten or fifteen minutes in when the agents descend upon Hanna's cottage in the woods. Other numbers include heart-pounding chase music, tender mood music and a creepy, "whistling" theme for the bad guys. Moreover, Wright concentrates on many other, more organic kinds of music as a major theme, since Hanna has been raised without it. The very manufactured sound of the Chemical score perfectly clashes with the rest of the music, which emerges diegetically.

One character says "it's our experiences that make us who we are," and I think that's the major point of Hanna, showing us that there's a wider range of experience out there than any one of us may ever consider. The first and last lines include the word "heart," and I think that they have a double meaning: aside from the surface meaning, they also describe our attempt and failure as humans to truly connect with each other. But on top of all this deep stuff, it's a great, thrilling, pounding action movie that goes with any flavor of popcorn (and a damn sight better than that other "girl power" movie of the moment, Sucker Punch).

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