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Hanna’s Fairy Tale is Violent and Grimm

  • Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2011 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
<i>Hanna</i>’s Fairy Tale is Violent and Grimm

DVD Release Date: September 6, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: April 8, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material, and language)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Thriller
Run Time: 111 min.
Director: Joe Wright
Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden

Once upon a time a young girl and her father lived in a small house in the forest of Finland. The two led simple lives; hunting for food, reading encyclopedias by the fire of an evening, and beating the snot out of each other on a daily basis.

That last activity is part of the training designed by Hanna’s father Erik (Eric Bana, The Time Traveler’s Wife). (Needless to say, Erik is not your average homeschooling parent.) Hanna (played by Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan of Atonement) is in training to be the perfect assassin, honing her skills in order to kill one woman—and anyone else who gets in her way.

That woman in Hanna’s sights is Marissa Wiegler, played with iron control by Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Marissa, an embattled higher-up in the CIA, has a heart of solid rock. She has secrets and will do whatever it takes to keep them. We don’t know why Hanna’s father wants Marissa dead, but the feeling is definitely mutual. And his little dog, er, daughter, too. (Marissa is definitely the wicked witch of the story.) “She won’t stop,” Erik tells Hanna, “until you are dead—or she is.”

And so it begins. The action leaps from Hanna’s cottage in the woods to the desert of Morocco and bounces across Europe to a finale in a creepy abandoned amusement park in Berlin. Along the way, Hanna takes up with teen Sophie (Jessica Barden, Tamara Drewe). Sophie is the yin to Hanna’s yang—she’s obsessed with all things teen girl (boys, fashion, boys, celebrities, boys…), is wildly opinionated, and never stops talking. Sophie and her slightly mad British family are on holiday, making their slapdash way across the continent in a camper van. It’s a vacation they’ll never forget—assuming they live to tell the tale.

For such a violent film with so many murders committed by such amoral people, Hanna is strangely entertaining. There are a number of things to laugh about even as the body count piles up in the manner of a Shakespearean tragedy. Too, there’s not as much blood and gore as one might expect and a lot of the combat is so beautifully choreographed it’s more like dancing than a fight to the death. The dark fairy tale vibe is deliciously moody, but understated enough that it’s fun to hunt for the many almost subliminal references.

Saoirse Ronan is marvelous as the oddly innocent Hanna. Sure, she can speak umpteen languages and dispatch armed soldiers without breaking a sweat, but she’s never seen electricity, put on lip gloss, or been exposed to music. Bless her heart, she doesn’t know any better. Her bemused gaze takes everything in and gives nothing away as she struggles to navigate this strange new world.

“Adapt or die” Hanna’s father tells her. Apparently that’s the code those who have no concept of right and wrong must live by. Even the “normal” characters in the film wouldn’t know a moral standard if they tripped over one on their way to the bar.

Sensitive viewers beware: Hanna manages to offend (in a relatively mild way) on an equal opportunity basis. Promiscuity, homosexuality, negative references to religion, sadism, genetic engineering ... all there, but not presented in an “in your face” way. Director Joe Wright (The Soloist, Atonement) calls Hanna “pure entertainment” but he also says of viewers, “I hope it freaks ‘em out just a little bit, too.”

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Characters meet in a bar, alcohol used in social situations.
  • Language/Profanity: The d-word, “ho” (playfully).
  • Sex/Nudity: Sex implied and discussed but not shown: moaning from inside rocking van, suggested teen sex, kissing between male/female couples and two teen girls (the latter more friendly than sensual); one character described as promiscuous; married couple described as “at it like rabbits"; stripper said to have “both male and female genitalia” shown not quite baring breasts.
  • Violence: A reindeer is killed and disemboweled in the opening; threatening situations, intense fighting, and violent death are ever present throughout the film.