Little girl lost

I just missed your heart.

Hanna (2011) begins and ends with that line, but it doesn’t feel the same way the second time. When Hanna first utters it she is standing over a deer she has just hit with an arrow.  Its breathing is panicked and frightened. She quickly (and somewhat coldly) puts it out of its misery. This is what must be done. When she says it again the film has given it more context, but we’ll get to that.

Hanna is, first and foremost, a phenomenal action film. Its shots, editing, pacing and soundtrack (provided by The Chemical Brothers) are all impeccable. It is, in fact, one of the best action films I have seen in recent memory. All of that is enough, but what pushes it past being a really good film and into being a great one are its regular flirtations with other genres and how deftly director Joe Wright moves between them.

Father knows best

Shortly after slaying the deer, Hanna is informed that she is dead by a man standing behind her. She doth protest, and after much struggling and repeated attempts to reach a gun, we learn that this man is Erik, Hanna’s father. Well, sort of. Either way, he teaches her to read and speak multiple languages. He reads her stories. But most importantly he teaches her to kill, and she’s a quick study. There is clearly a level of affection between the two of them, but Erik keeps Hanna at a distance. It seems as though he feels that it’s easier for her that way. It’s certainly easier for him.

Inside their remote cabin there is a red button attached to a homing beacon. Erik has informed Hanna that when she is ready she may push that button and that “she” will come for her. This woman will not stop until either Hanna is dead, or she is. Her name is Marisa Wiegler, the woman Hanna has been training to kill her whole life. She pushes the button.

Hanna is captured with ease, playing the role of the lost, confused little girl. She is brought to a military facility, the kind that is always located in the middle of nowhere and decorated almost entirely with sheet metal. You know the place. There she is questioned by a psychologist and, soon, a Marissa Wiegler double. You didn’t think that she’d go in there alone, did you?! No, unlike the rest of this outfit, Miss Wiegler knows what she’s dealing with. It is confirmed when Hanna quickly snaps the neck of the double and the real deal can’t help but betray an excited smile. She has been waiting for this all of Hanna’s life, too.

And so our action film is set in motion. Hanna goes on the run, attempting to meet up with her father at “Grimm’s house,” with Wiegler and her goons (Headed by a man named Isaacs, played with exquisite creepiness by Tom Hollander) in hot pursuit.

I am what I am

Eventually Hanna comes into contact with a vacationing British family. She befriends the daughter and becomes the object of the little boy’s crush. The parents, both kind and welcoming, if not more than a bit concerned, are relatively clueless. Hanna seems to be surrounded by adults who don’t really know what to do with her. She goes on a date. She “hangs out.” She does none of these things naturally. There is only one thing that isn’t entirely foreign to her and her new friend learns this when she witnesses Hanna kill a man with ease right in front of her. Hanna sees what it’s like to be a teenage girl, but will always be on the outside looking in.

Then there is Marissa. We learn a few things as the film goes along. We learn that Marissa is chasing Erik and Hanna because the three of them are a part of government program involving the development of super soldiers. (Governments in film are absolutely OBSESSED with super soldiers!) Erik had misgivings about the program and attempted to escape with Hanna and her biological mother. Hanna’s mother did not make it. That bit of business is none of Marissa’s concern as she knows who Hanna really belongs to anyway.

Marissa doesn’t betray much emotion, but when she does we get the feeling that her entire life is a struggle to contain it. She views it as a weakness. There is a scene in which Erik has shown up at her hotel desperate to end things and has Marissa hiding behind her bed as he shoots through the door. She commands herself, out loud, to get up and go. No one tells Marissa Wiegler what to do but Marissa Wiegler.

Hanna eventually arrives at “Grimm’s house,” which turns out to be an abandoned amusement park occupied by one of Erik’s contacts. Kneplfer, an older gentleman, treats Hanna like a grandchild. He feeds her and entertains her. There are hints that he once had great affection for Erik and her mother; a life that could have been. Soon Marissa and Isaacs arrive.

Hanna and her father have an important scene together shortly before Marissa kills him. After Hanna has run from “Grimm’s house” and found her father, he attempts to justify himself. He tells her that he had no choice. He tells her that he had to prepare her for what was coming. She learns that they are not related by blood and that that never mattered to him. He only wanted to protect her. Hanna has been failed by all of the adults around her.

When Hanna and Marissa have their inevitable showdown Hanna tells her that she doesn’t want to hurt anyone anymore. Marissa promptly shoots her, but not before Hanna lands an arrow in her chest. As Marissa lies bleeding on the ground Hanna stands over her.

I just missed your heart.

Kevin Mattison is co-editor of The Idler, as well as being an occassional film review contributor for Real Detroit Weekly, a filmmaker and videographer. You can follow him on Twitter at @kmmattison.

One Response to “Little girl lost”
  1. Sugel says:

    What is astounding is that in spite of Heller’s selfish and cruel rearing, Hanna is a good individual. She never harms an innocent (a Spanish dude trying to get fresh gets a scare, but nothing serious), nor does she present any level of irrational rage, maliciousness, or cruelty. When she fights, it is in an emotional vacuum and always in self-defense. Saoirse Ronan’s portrayal even gives Hanna a moment of sadness and pity for Wiegler at the end. Echoing the scene that opens the film in which she kills a deer, Hanna is sorry that the death was painful and not instant. Wiegler’s death is, like that of the deer, a necessity for Hanna’s existence.

%d bloggers like this: