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Friday, April 8, 2011

Hanna

When Girl Power Goes Bad

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In the not-so-thrilling thriller Hanna, father-daughter day consists of brutal close combat training near their home, a cabin tucked into the snow forest just before the timberline turns into the Arctic. "You must always be ready," dad warns his girl after pining her to the icy ground. Oh, by the way, he leaves her with the big buck deer she had just killed, which she then hauls home for dinner on a sled. It's survivalist training of a severe sort.

The Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) gives an excellent performance as Hanna, protagonist of a film whose occasionally beautiful cinematography can't mask a script that rapidly descends into sheer stupidity. Wan and pale as an elfin forest creature, she shrieks with wild child delight the first time she sees an airplane overhead and asks with wondering eyes about music, a sound that has never reached the vast forest that has been the only home she remembers. Dad (Erik Bana) reads to her at night by the fireside from an encyclopedia whose contents she has memorized. Alas, the intriguing set-up goes badly awry.

Turns out dad is some sort of rogue operative hiding from the CIA, especially agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett), a ridiculous caricature of an unpleasant career woman. Then again, most of the characters are ridiculous, especially the ring of gay German henchmen Marissa hires to kill Hanna because "there are things the agency can't do." But with the patchy lack of sense marring most of the screenplay, her agency does practically anything it wants, no help needed from gay Germans with a penchant for killing by peculiar means.

Leaping through the gaping loopholes of logic, the plot skips from country to continent, mostly to provide exotic backdrops for the intermittent chase as dad and daughter follow their separate paths to a rendezvous in Berlin, where some terrible secret will be revealed. Hanna's superhuman strength and agility suggest Jason Bourne for the Hannah Montana set. There are plenty of computer-choreographed fights, most looking rather lame 12 years after The Matrix set the standard. It would be good to point out that there might originally have been an interesting idea about genetic engineering at the conception of Hanna, and nice to add that Ronan's performance saves the day, but the latter part of the proposition isn't true. The bad screenplay leaves Hanna stranded in the junkyard.
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