Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Hanna has some beautifully shot moments, but at the end of the day it’s hard to recommend an action adventure road movie where the predominant questions I’m asking myself as I watch are:
– can someone please get that girl a bottle of conditioner for her split ends, and
– Marissa Viegler – the villain of the piece, which came first – her name or the character’s accent?  It seems to me one was chosen to enhance the other.

Before I get any farther, I should say that even though I didn’t really dig this film it’s still way more interesting than Sucker Punch if one is stuck ranking recent films with violent young women. Pretty much the entire film’s story is covered in the trailer – which while making it more likely you’ll see the film in the first place, pretty much guarantees that the few genuine dramatic moments will be ruined for you.

The story is about super teen assassin Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the woods with the improbable mission of unseating the women who presumably banished them to a life of hunting with bows and arrows.  When Hanna is ready for her mission, she flips the switch of a conveniently available transponder that alerts Marissa to their whereabouts.  As expected, Viegler (Cate Blanchett) then dispatches a team of guys in ski masks and machine guns to catch Hanna’s father. He splits town wearing a suit in the woods by way of disguise (don’t mind me – I’m just a banker out for a walk in the hinterlands). So when the men in black arrive, they take only have Hanna to take into custody. Which of course IS ALL PART OF THE INCREDIBLY OVERLY COMPLICATED PLAN.

What ensues is a riot of locations and ass-kicking of various sorts. During this travelogue, Hanna is exposed for the first time to other people, and situations. Of which many for some reason involve a vacationing family with perhaps unhealthily “free to be you and me” ideals on empowering their children. During this period, we watch Hanna go from shocked at the concept of an electric light to being able to surf the net doing research on black ops genetic programs that would make Manticore blush. Yep, I get it, she’s a quick learner.

I may be missing something here, but to my eyes the entire Hanna house of cards collapses upon the most modest analysis as to what’s going on. Hanna’s dad comes up with this super elaborate nearly two-hour plan to take out Ms. Viegler, which could have been more simply accomplished by sneaking over to her house and say, setting it on fire one night. He’s clearly never heard of trying the simple approach first.

Sometimes, complexity for the sake of complexity can be fun. Presented as exhibit A: any great con movie. But in this case, it didn’t feel particularly clever. As much as I enjoyed the world tour of set locations to fit the mood of each piece of the film, they mainly felt unnecessary. Like a great short film had been extended far, far too long into feature-length territory.

Hanna starts way stronger than it concludes. There are hints at shorthand character development that never really panned out for me, such as Hanna reading Grimm fairy tales while pining over a picture of her deceased mother.  But until she leaves for her quest, I felt the picture might have an emotional core that would hold my attention. As the road movie continued, I eventually decided this wasn’t really going to get beyond the “just OK as long as you don’t think about it too much (or at all)” level.  Viegler is particularly poorly developed as a character. Other than an obsession with dental hygiene and carrying a monogrammed handgun, there’s not much more to her as presented.

The film has a nice look to it from an art direction standpoint, and the action sequences are mostly well done. The effort to get a fairy tale look and feel comes through both from the visuals and Ronan’s other worldiness. But there wasn’t enough from those dimensions to overwhelm the story arc (or what there was of it). I felt as though all of the actors had a great film in them – this just wasn’t it. With a particularly unsatisfying conclusion (pays to wear grippy shoes during your next homicidal jaunt it turns out) this is an all-sizzle, no steak affair…and the quality of the sizzle is probably a little debatable as well.

You should at least watch the trailer for Hanna, as it sort of rocks. But for this weekend’s viewing choice may I suggest Rubber, the film opening at the Northwest Film Forum this weekend about a sentinent tire that blows up people’s heads.  And the tire’s not the weird part of the film. Just saying…