Hanna grew up in a snowy, Finnish forest, separated from not only the conveniences of society, but from society altogether. She’s like Hudson Hawk, released from jail and unaware of things like cellphones and PlayStations, only she’s not a cat burglar and doesn’t sing swinging big-band tunes. She’s released from the wild with a mind full of encyclopedic knowledge yet zero first-hand application of said knowledge, a kid not in some mall candy store, but a worldwide store filled with candy…and bear traps and black holes and ammunition. She’s entranced yet apprehensive; overwhelmed yet bewildered – an alien sent to Earth with loads of research behind her and a mission, but a twinkle in her eye and the curiosity of a child. In other words, she’s Leeloo, minus the part where she’s an element capable of saving and/or destroying worlds.
With all this in front of her, Hanna doesn’t quite know how to handle herself at times. So many shiny new things, so many experiences to absorb. So many choices with so much at stake.
I might not have all that much on the line, but I feel a bit like Hanna, at least as it pertains to reviewing her film.
Sometimes, it’s easy to put a finger on what you find appealing about a film. To apply a simple-to-understand label or turn-of-phrase that the whole world will comprehend with no further explanation necessary. A virtuoso performance by Daniel Day-Lewis! Brilliant pretzel logic. Creative non-linear structure. Whip-smart and/or snappy dialogue. Layers of meaning ripe for analysis.
Hanna has none of those things. Especially not Daniel Day-Lewis.
But it has that…zip…that spark…that certain je ne sais quois that I only wish I could put into words. It is a mirror of its central character – bad ass, brilliant, beautiful, naive, and capable of speaking in any number of languages. I don’t know if it’s the ethereal/industrial Chemical Brother score or the coherent, blunt action or the bohemian multiculturalism encapsulated by the family of Brits that Hanna meets on her travels or the dazzling visual after visual that’s flung at the audience, but I’m become smitten with Hanna.
Director Joe Wright has made a film that’s ostensibly about nothing – it’s a straight-up revenge plot with sci-fi elements and an overall Bourne/espionage cool (every spy film that is released over the next 10 years that jumps around European cities must be compared to the Bourne films, in case you didn’t know). Hanna tells us nothing about ourselves, and Hanna learns nothing meaningful about herself; sure, she learns of the circumstances that resulted in her living in a Finnish forest for the bulk of her childhood, but neither she nor any of the other characters really grow as a result of the events that take place in the film.
But, to borrow from the great poet Steven Tyler, life’s a journey, not a destination, and you just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. Every second Hanna spends outside of her habitat is a new experience – one that’s met with whimsy and magic and danger, and Wright brings that feeling to life palpably.