Hanna (2011) Movie Review

In “Hanna” a young girl, oddly enough named Hanna, lives a simple existence in a cabin in the woods with her doting father. That sounds nice and picturesque, right? Not exactly. The title character (Saoirse Ronan) is a pale, and I mean looks-like-a-ghost pale, 16 year old that lives a life similar to that of an arctic ninja. She hunts with a homemade bow and arrow, chases down wounded animals, and her father, Erik Heller (former stand up comedian Eric Bana), randomly sneaks up and attacks her just to test her reflexes and preparedness. She may be gutting a dead deer, or sound asleep in the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter. He’s likely to spring when least expected, to keep her on her toes, even when unconscious.

Heller is training Hanna for a very specific mission, to kill Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), a cold, manipulative CIA operative. However, there is a big question, is Hanna being trained to be a tool of her father’s vengeance, or is she being trained so that she can protect herself against unknown dangers that exist for her in the world? Father and daughter knife fight for fun, use antlers for target practice, and train Escrima in the deep winter snow of their remote Finnish home. Heller quizzes her in multiple languages, and drills addresses, dates, times, and a fabricated back-story into her teenage brain. In short, Hanna’s life amounts to one big training montage. While she knows lots of information from books, like the population of Leipzig, Germany, that kissing requires 34 facial muscles working in conjunction, and how to snap a grown man’s neck, she is also incredibly sheltered in many regards. She’s read all about music, but has to ask what it feels like.

Heller gives Hanna a choice. He digs up a tracking device that, once activated, will alert Wiegler of their position. Hanna can flip the switch and activate the beacon if she feels ready, or leave it alone and continue on as before. Being a rebellious teen, she triggers the device, and kicks off a chain of intense action set to a score by the Chemical Brothers. When Hanna is taken into custody by government agents she begins to learn bits of her father’s history as a rogue CIA asset, the truth about the death of her mother, and her own shadowy origins. After killing an agent posing as Wiegler, Hanna escapes from a secure, underground CIA fortress in the middle of the Moroccan desert. Up to this point you know that Hanna is pretty badass, but after watching her dismantle a cadre of highly trained bad guys, you can’t deny how badass she is, plain and simple. She is proficient with firearms, martial arts, and evasive techniques, and has ample opportunity to showcase her skills. This is not your average teenager, this is someone willing to cling to the undercarriage of a Hummer as it bounces over rocky terrain just to make a get away.

Despite the action trappings, “Hanna” is also a quiet, unique coming of age story, a coming of age story that just so happens to include gunfights and international intrigue in addition to raging hormones, discovering friendship, and strained familial relationships. All of the strange growing up moments serve to make the action in “Hanna” that much more awesome. After escaping from the CIA, Hanna makes her way across the map to meet her father, pursued the whole way by a skeevy hitman (Tom Hollander), who runs a burlesque show featuring a bearded midget and a hermaphrodite, and his skinhead sidekicks. Somehow in the middle of all of this, Hanna makes a friend, Sophie (Jessica Barden), and falls in with her hippy clan. Sophie is the bossy, materialistic spawn of overly liberal parents (Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng), who think letting their children do whatever they want is tantamount to helping them become fully realized human beings. They think it’s just peachy keen that a young, independent woman like Hanna is making her way across Northern Africa by herself.

This is where Hanna really begins to learn about life outside of training and revenge. Sophie is her first friend, and the duo do typical teenage things, like sneak out to meet boys. For the first time in her life Hanna is able to be a kid, and her doe-eyed, babe-in-the-woods routine works for a while. Director Joe Wright does an excellent job of making you see everyday things that you take for granted from Hanna’s perspective. In one particularly strong scene, Hanna gets overwhelmed in a hotel room, unable to deal with the cacophony created when the TV, fluorescent lights, ceiling fan, and electric teakettle all rattle and hum in unison. However, it does get stale after a bit. Luckily, the pace only bogs down for a moment, and Wright picks things up.

Visually, “Hanna” employs unique settings and architecture to great effect. There is an elevated river, an abandoned amusement park/dinosaur graveyard, and a house where giant glass mushrooms dangle from the ceiling, just to name a few. The framing and settings keep you on your toes and never let you sit back into an easy comfort, keeping you engrossed and on the edge of your seat, even in subtle moments. “Run Lola, Run” springs to mind as a reference point for the action scenes, but that might just be due to the techno score and prominence of shots of a young woman running very fast. The “Bourne” movies are also an apt comparison in that regard, but Wright brings his own sensibilities to the action. The quiet moments are definitely akin to his other films, like “Atonement”. “Hanna” is a unique, often strange take on both an action film and a growing up story, and damn entertaining to boot.

Joe Wright (director)/Seth Lockheed (writer)/David Farr (writer)
CAST: Saoirse Ronan…Hanna Heller
Eric Bana…Erik Heller
Cate Blanchett…Marissa Wiegler
Tom Hollander…Isaacs
Jessica Barden…Sophie


Buy Hanna on DVD



About Brent McKnight

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Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight

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  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

    Great reveiw. I’ve been wondering about this for a bit, and now I’m intrigued. I really want to see this. This and Azumi back to back would make a hell of a double feature.

    • Arent11

      Great idea and great ‘feeling’ to combine a thriller with a fairy tale :) However, I was more interested in the characters (The hillarious girl that always talked about pop stars and beauty surgery, or the traveling on the road in general). There would, as is mentioned in the review, be enough space to continue the story *hint* *hint*
      There is also an alternative, extended ending which I liked very much – Hanna returns to the cabin in the woods. The movie could have been even greater:

      1. Hate to say it, but the actors of Mr. Grimm and to an extend also the henchmen were no good at all. Maybe they were really great in some other roles like Joe Wright said, but they really annoy me in the film.

      2. One should have stronger contrasted the ‘fairytale’ scenes from the viewpoint of Hanna with the ‘realistic’ ones of Marissa and Erik

      3. I dislike superhuman stuff, it would have been more beliefable if Hanna would have managed to kill the marissa double and then marissa would have ordered to *let* her escape to lead them to Erik. Marissa should have died because she severely underestimated Hanna.

  • Moviegoer

    The movie was entertaining but made no sense. Why was Hanna any threat? Who were Hanna’s mother and father? Why was Cate Blanchett so eager to kill Hanna and everyone related to her? Nothing was resolved at the end – Hanna was shot – everyone was dead and Hanna had no money or any place to go. The story could have started at this point with Hanna learning to survive in the world and discovering the full story of her past. What happened to the family she had been traveling with from Morocco? Did Eric Bana swim from the arctic circle to Germany? The movie was loaded with action but short on details.

    • Ulik

      There is a subtle indicator that this movie had more to do with a neo-nazi agenda. The fact that Hannah was an extremely pale, blond haired-blue eyed person that was bred to be “genetically” perfect specimen and highly trained shows a clear example of what Adolf Hitler was trying to do with his “Aryan-Nordic/Master-Race” concept; beside the fact that there were others of her kind out there too . The movie even took place partly in Germany and her mother was German. There were too many plot holes and it has sequel written all over it. Why would they want her so bad even to point of killing her? More than likely if it came to the point of having to kill her,they probably would tried to use her DNA or clone more. I agree, too many holes but there’s alot of subliminal stuff going on in this movie that the average joe won’t see or understand.

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

        Now I really want to see this.

        Sent on the go.

      • EurekaSalmon

        I agree 100% with Ulik. Neo-nazi Aryan/Nordic master race subliminal propaganda loaded with allusions to pagan fairy tales.

        Very disappointing in the end…

  • Lulukirby

    “Why was Hanna any threat?” Because she was a genetically modified super-soldier trained by an ex-CIA operative with the sole intention of killing Marrisa Viegler. “Who were Hanna’s mother and father?” Hanna’s ‘father’ was an ex-CIA operative who left the service in order to train and protect Hanna from Marissa Viegler. Her mother was a German woman who Erik picked up “in an abortion clinic”. “Why was Cate Blanchett so eager to kill Hanna and everyone related to her?” Because she was given the task of killing all of the genetically babies by the CIA. As Erik was shielding and protecting her, she needed to dispose of him too. “What happened to the family she had been traveling with from Morocco?” We don’t know, although the clip where Cate Blanchett is talking to the young boy and is about to show him what’s inside hinted to me that it might be a gun and that she’s going to shoot him, but that’s just me. “Did Eric Bana swim from the arctic circle to Germany?” No, we see him arriving in Germany from some kind of public transport – he must have swam to a nearby country and then taken some form of transport. The movie had no major issues for me in terms of plotholes but it did leave a few questions unanswered: Why wasn’t Erik picked up on Interpol when he used transport to get to Berlin? What was Marrisa Viegler so OCD about her teeth?Why was Hanna any threat?” Because she was a genetically modified super-soldier trained by an ex-CIA operative with the sole intention of killing Marrisa Viegler. “Who were Hanna’s mother and father?” Hanna’s ‘father’ was an ex-CIA operative who left the service in order to train and protect Hanna from Marissa Viegler. Her mother was a German woman who Erik picked up “in an abortion clinic”. “Why was Cate Blanchett so eager to kill Hanna and everyone related to her?” Because she was given the task of killing all of the genetically babies by the CIA. As Erik was shielding and protecting her, she needed to dispose of him too. “What happened to the family she had been traveling with from Morocco?” We don’t know, although the clip where Cate Blanchett is talking to the young boy and is about to show him what’s inside hinted to me that it might be a gun and that she’s going to shoot him, but that’s just me. “Did Eric Bana swim from the arctic circle to Germany?” No, we see him arriving in Germany from some kind of public transport – he must have swam to a nearby country and then taken some form of transport. The movie had no major issues for me in terms of plotholes but it did leave a few questions unanswered: Why wasn’t Erik picked up on Interpol when he used transport to get to Berlin? What was Marrisa Viegler so OCD about her teeth?

    • Evighedspandaen

      Im pretty sure its suppose to look like either Denmark or Norway…The cops are wearing uniform with the letters “POLITI” on the back. That means that its either Norwegian or Danish policemen..German police are called Polizei and Swedish police is called Polis……Its a short clip but im pretty sure its filmed in germany mainly because of the look of the trains.

  • Lulukirby

     Oh and also – What was the link between Marrisa Viegler and children of her own – she said she made certain decisions/choices but this was a bit ambiguous. Why did they have to let Marrisa know where they were? Wouldn’t it have been easier to assassinate her without her knowing they were at large rather than being taken into CIA custody? Personally I thought this was a great movie, a lot less mainstream than I was expecting, and great casting/acting with a great musical score.

  • April

    no story, not ending….bad movie!

  • Matthijs

    I like the film! The action was great, but i agree with everyone else at this forum: It has an open ending! Maybe we will see Hanna 2 in the future, because the CIA still wants to see her bleeding on to the ground. With Merrissa Wiegler dead it is not over. Everyone will be looking for her. Maybe she will stay with the family from Morocco or she will starve from hunger. There are so many questions at the ending that there is a great space for a second movie! I love the way how Saoirse Ronan was playing Hanna! I love the story it is just a great story, but it is a story within you need to find out by yourself what is happening in the film. And that is what i love. It is a great film and i really hope there is gonna be a part 2 of this film!

    • Tinindian

      The family that Hanna was traveling with are all dead even the little boy. I know the movie does not spell it out but look at the pattern. They killed the hotel manager, they killed her fathers friend. Anyone who knew about Hanna was killed.

  • Dimidiumcognatus

    There were many cliff hangers scattered throughout the movie. Personally, I like these type of scenes because it’s based on common sense or keeps you guessing. I hate when the directors/producers waste our time with obvious and unnecessary backdrop. As for the family that Hanna met on her journey, I highly doubt they survived in the hands of those assassins. Why? It’s not like they were merciful to that Arabic motel owner at the beginning. In addition, people who are used to having a solid resolution will not be satisfied with these types of movies. Although I do find myself falling in love with this movie, I’m not sure I want a sequel. Sequels usually crash and burn and just ruin the experience for me. What exactly is there to film after practically all the significant characters were killed off? What more action is there to see since Hanna wants to live a normal life?

    • Drak237

      Marissa, during the interrogation of the family, did say something to the effect of “…days like these make me hate my job…” which was an indication to me that they were to terminate the family. It made me sad to think about because one of things that really touched me in the film was the relationship Hanna had developed with Sophie. I wouldn’t want a sequel either…