Hanna Movie Review: Brawl In The Family

Where do CIA assets go when they’re over-qualified and too hot to handle? Apparently the coldest, far reaches of Finland, if the latest girl assassin screen fantasy, Hanna has any say. Yet another rowdy teen rebel futuristic slaughter spree rising up, above all, against bad parenting, Hanna is gorgeous visually to behold. But its grasp of basic logic and appeal to baser instincts may be another matter.

Saoirse Ronan is Hanna, a girl being mysteriously raised in a primitive dwelling by her secretive single dad Erik (Eric Bana) out in an uninhabited frozen wilderness. Hanna’s highly unusual tough love upbringing includes getting sent out to slay reindeer and gut the unfortunate creatures with her bare hands, when not being summoned to engage in a father/daughter brawl to see who can beat up the other one better. There’s also a bit of educating going on with a single encyclopedia and book of fairy tales lying around, that might be termed hut-schooling.

When Hanna tires of her domestic boot camp regimen routinely practicing killing each other, she insists that it’s time to move on and head over to the real world for her designated, as yet unrevealed life mission. Which has something to do with CIA head honcho Marissa (Cate Blanchett) as the latest diabolical career woman on screen, harboring both a homicidal obsession towards Hanna, and a really bad Southern drawl.

Eventually the teen killing machine cruises around Morocco after fleeing an underground secret CIA desert compound, and while eluding Marissa and her psychopathic posse of CIA operatives. Where she discovers electricity and war movies, sustains terrifying sensory overload in her first time encounter with gadgets, and befriends rather homoerotically, a trash talking vacationing Brit her own age who aspires to be a lesbian when she grows up, ‘but not one of the fat ones.’

UK director Joe Wright (Atonement, The Soloist) sustains whimsical episodic storytelling intertwined with a procession of inventively crafted mystical imagery, as experienced viscerally through the eyes of a girl awakening for the first time to the world around her. If only the assorted plot details – involving abortion clinics, genetic tampering, surrogate parenting from hell, and Cate Blanchett as an awful brassy bottled redhead with a stash of identical blue shoes – didn’t have such a radically crackpot ring to them.

Focus Features

Rated PG-13

2 1/2 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.