Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Review of the film HANNA


Hanna: A Review


            I should make a rule.  If a movie blurb has the acronym CIA in it, I should pass.  I got suckered by the idea of a wild child being raised in the back woods of Finland.  I wanted to see Finland.  That's why I rented the movie HANNA.  Everything else was loaded with the usual signals. CIA, CIA, CperiodIperiodAperiod.
            The CIA has become a  cinematic boogeyman, a narrative trope for deception, rogue agents who are awesome martial artists, plots within plots within plots, old paper files that should have been burned at the end of the Cold War, EVIL, pure old fashioned EVIL.  This is our main national security agency, the one that sets the paradigm.  It's interesting how much we depend on it and hate it.  No one imbues the DIA, the NSC, the FBI or dozens of other acronymic agencies with such an aura of sinister misdirection.  No other agency is synonymous with THE BIG LIE.
            Here is the movie, HANNA, directed by Jon Wright, and starring Saoirse Ronan as the waif-like uber-warrior, martial artist supreme.  My first problem was simply working out the pronunciation of the girl's name.  Turns out it's pronounced Seer-sha.  Hoooray!  I think the Irish are just having a laugh at our expense, cleaving with ethnic loyalty to the old Gaelic names.  I can imagine it, the Christening of a girl child, and the parents confer in ponderous whispers.  "Let's call her Riaoirdhagnha-hna."  Couldn't just call her Riordan, could ya?
            I'm having a bit of fun, certainly not slinging ethnic slurs.  The Irish are entitled to defiance.  As are the Blacks, the Jews, the Arabs, the Ethiopian Coptics, the Mormons, The Kurds and everyone else.  No one needs opt out of defiance.  It's the national creed of all nations.  Oh say can you seeeeee?
            Let me see if I can compress the plot of this movie into a logical sequence.
A while ago, in the mid-nineties, the CIA funded a program to mess with genetic sequencing via in-vitro fertilization.  The idea was to see if they could produce a SUPER SOLDIER, a warrior with superior reflexes, intelligence, better vision, better hearing, greater strength and so forth. 
            If we want to trace the origins of this cliche, we may go back to sci fi maven Isaac Asimov writing in the fifties and then fast forward twenty years to Bionic Man. 
            This program (the one in the movie) produced maybe twenty children and then the bottom dropped out of it.  The film gives us a five second vignette of fast cuts of news and magazine items.  Apparently a certain number of children met untimely deaths, around the same time and locale.  Guess the CIA didn't want freaky little chromosome carriers running around the world.
            There's a flashback scene of Cate Blanchett stepping out from behind a snow-bound road sign and firing six or eight or ten shots from her nine millimeter Beretta at an oncoming car.  The vehicle contains a man, a woman, and a toddler.  This brilliant, foolproof assassination plan doesn't work.  My goodness!  The toddler's mother is dying in the snow and curses Blanchett's character, agent Marrisa Wiegler, with her final words: "You'll never take her."  Or was it, "You'll never find her?" Whatever.  Male person/daddy and super-toddler have vanished into the eerie north woods.
            There must be another rule, a Hollywood rule, that if you have a movie that's just middling in quality and if you can land Cate Blanchett in the cast it will add enough class to the project to push it uphill a notch into cinematic respectability.
            I must admit that Blanchett played her high level agent like the perfect Wicked Witch.  "Come here, child, I won't hurt you," she says with a voice like dry ice.  We know her character's nuts by the way she brushes her teeth.  She attacks her gums until she can spit blood.  It's interesting that Blanchett distances herself in the movie's credits.  It's hard to discover that she is actually IN the movie.  In spite of  near-dominant screen time, she's a somewhat hidden "And Cate Blanchett" way back in the cast credits.
            Okay okay okay.  The movie was entertaining.  It was as saturated with cliche as a Denny's waffle is with maple syrup.  Two thirds of the film time was taken up with chases.  Watch out for chases.  Rule Number twenty three: long chases are evidence of the director's lack of imagination. 
            At the end of the movie the chasing goes on in an abandoned theme park with headless dinosaurs and roller coaster tunnels.  The final scene has Blanchett emerging from the mouth of the Big Bad Wolf.
            I never quite figured out why Blanchett was chasing Hanna through the park and then suddenly Hanna was chasing Blanchett through the park.  It didn't make sense.  Did Marissa Wiegler (that's another thing, was she a German with a Southern accent?  Or a Southern with a German accent?.  Sheeesh.)  Each had hurt the other.  Hanna had created a functioning crossbow while running full tilt through the abandoned theme park.  Blanchett had shot Hanna somewhere near the abdomen but apparently her super genes included quick healing.  There was some symbolic dwelling on Wiegler's shoes in an earlier scene.  Apparently these shoes are the witch's undoing, because she slips, ooops, just at the climactic moment of confrontation, and goes head first down some bobsled track thingy.  Then the ironic comments get to be uttered.  "I just missed your heart", says Hanna, in a reference to the first scene in the film when she's hunting a caribou buck and mercifully gives him the coup de grace.  She told the magnificent animal, with appropriately aboriginal predator/prey bonding, "I just missed your heart."
            I guess I won't be spoiling anything to say that the movie ends with a bang.
            I rate it three muskrats.  Coulda been better.  Fairly entertaining. Coulda been a lot worse.

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