There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a film that has all the ingredients to be a major success (great actors, a decent budget, an intriguing concept) fall flat on its face.
I read the reviews of Hanna when it was first released and was impressed with the positives. I liked the plot idea, too, of a young teen bred for warfare going up against the people who created her. It was an edgy concept, not all that different in concept from the intro material in my very own novel Mechanic (shameless plug!).
But, upon finally seeing the film yesterday, my disappointment was great. You had a great cast, a decent budget, but a film that was directed, alas, by someone who seemed intent on creating an arty Euro-tinged fable rather than a gripping/gritty action thriller. Mind you, there are plenty of “arty Euro-tinged fables” I happen to enjoy quite immensely (One of my three all time favorite films is Orpheus, which one could describe as exactly that!). Hanna, however, was screaming for something more in your face. The movie was soft where it should have been hard, introspective when it should have been explosive, and heavy handed when it should have been sure footed and sleek.
Worse, some of the action scenes, in particular the sequence where Erik (Eric Bana) takes on four CIA killers in a Berlin subway, looked like the actors were in the early stages of doing rehearsals rather than actually filming what should have been a crushing fight to the death. Oh what circa 1984-90 James Cameron would have done with this material!
Interestingly, this is the second film in as many months that I’ve seen where I get the feeling the original script/story was probably darker and more complex than what we eventually saw in theaters. The first such film was Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol (I re-posted the original review here and haven’t changed my mind regarding where I believe it was originally going).
For Hanna, I began to feel the story was changed toward the movie’s last third. When the character of Erik (Hanna’s “father”) is fleshed out and Hanna’s identity/background is revealed, I figured for sure the movie would move into much darker territory. After all, her “father” is an agent betrayed. Why make his and Hanna’s survival made known to their most moral enemies? What purpose could doing so, other than draw out his enemy, serve? And once he makes Hanna announce herself, why split up with his daughter at that point and send her to get his revenge? In the (theoretical) original story, was he less than the seemingly caring father he seemed? Likewise, is Hanna herself in that possible original story perhaps more of a Frankenstein monster, whose outward emotions are about to be exposed as a sham? She is, after all, designed to be a soldier. She is, in the words of one of the characters, less emotional, more calculating. Deadly. And what of CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett)? Could it turn out, in the end, that despite her seeming evil in the movie’s early going, she in actuality is trying to do good and stop a potential monster from being unleashed onto an unknowing public?
Perhaps I’m over thinking things and all these story ideas that did not materialize within the movie were never a part of what Hanna was about. Regardless, this is a film that despite much good, is ultimately too slow, too frustrating, and too pointless to recommend.