Friday, April 8, 2011


MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (L) Roger Ebert (3 1/2 stars) Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

Hanna (directed by Joe Wright, story by Seth Lockhead with the screenplay co-written again by Seth Lockhead as well as David Farr) is a grim fairytale, the Brothers Grimm meet the Bourne series.

Let me explain: A father, Erik (played by Erik Bana) seeking to protect his daughter Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) after the death of her mother Johanna Zadek (played by Vicky Krieps) who dies under initially unclear circumstances, flees to the forests of the northern wilds where he raises her as best he can to defend herself. What northern wilds are they? Good question. Initially, I thought them to be Alaska or Canada, but they could have been Scandinavia or possibly even Russia (though the last case would have been least likely).

Erik tells his daughter that she is from Germany and has a grandmother in Berlin and that they will go to the Grimm’s house in Berlin to meet her. But before doing so, she will have to kill a woman, Marissa (played by Cate Blanchett) who killed Hanna’s mother and who is bent on killing her as well. Why this would be so is initially unclear.  However, it is clear that Erik was some sort of a spy -- a very good one -- who was capable of disappearing along with his daughter for many, many years.

Hanna grows up in the forests of the northern wilds and when she's 15, she begins telling her father that "she is ready to leave." Erik, like a "good father" is uncertain, but goes out to the back of their house and digs up a long hidden radio transmitter and tells Hanna that the decision to leave is now hers. The transmitter is a homing device, if she turns it on by pressing a big red button, it will forever blow their cover and Marissa will send agents to retrieve both of them.  Hanna’s left to ponder the matter as she goes to sleep.

The next day, Hanna sends her father off to do some hunting and when he comes back, he sees that she’s pressed the red button and turned on the transmitter. Hence, the clock is ticking. Very well, Erik shaves, has Hanna help him cut his hair, puts on a suit and tells her that whereas Marissa would certainly have him killed immediately, she would probably take Hanna prisoner first (giving Hanna the chance to kill Marissa). Erik says goodbye to Hanna and tells her to meet him as long planned in the Grimm’s House in Berlin after she takes care of Marissa. Erik disappears into the forests and soon enough Special Forces come to the house in search of Erik and not finding him, take Hanna to an "undisclosed location" worthy of the name.

The movie proceeds from there. In the process, the reason for Hanna’s mother’s death and for the authorities’ 15 year search for Erik is revealed, as well as why Hanna herself would be a target. 

The story is made all the more interesting by the realization that Hanna, 15 years old, has grown-up entirely in the woods. All she's known are the skills that Erik her father has chosen to teach her.  These while interesting and perhaps useful to her in her quite unique situation (there were people who were out to kill her) didn't include knowledge of even the most basic of electrical devices or even that of running water.  So as her father instructed her repeatedly, she also had to know how to quickly "adapt or die."

I found the movie to be a fascinating mashing of a Brothers Grimm-style fairytale and a post-Bourne Identity spy novel. Yes, there is violence but of a kind that has been common in PG-13 movies in recent years (lots of shooting and glass, etc shattering but very little actual blood/gore), much is left to the imagination. Agreeing with the PG-13 rating, I do think that Hanna would not be appropriate for young children.  However, by age 13 (becoming a teenager) there should no longer be a problem with viewing the film. And the movie is "teen appropriate" in another way.  For in rather strange, highly stylized (symbolic) way, Hanna is a parable about "growing up." ;-)

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