Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wild Child - Hanna

Pallid and lanky, elongated by puberty, Saorise Ronan is perfect as Hanna, a genetically enhanced killing machine – universal soldier, junior model. Last of an outlawed experiment, Hanna is slated for elimination by cold-blooded CIA operative Marissa (Cate Blanchett). With an obsessive-compulsive thing about her teeth that drives her to scrape until her gums bleed, and a shoe fetish to boot, Marissa was responsible for the death of Hanna’s mother, Johanna, and now she is driven to clean things up completely by doing away with the daughter. Meanwhile, Erik (Eric Bana), Johanna’s lover, has released Hanna as a weapon of vengeance.

A mixture of brooding Cold War sordidness and standard kick-boxing combat against impossible odds, Joe Wright’s Hanna contains a mixture of elements that keep the storyline of flight and pursuit of a genetically enhanced agent in need of extermination interesting: a cold, concrete secret desert installation that turns out, strikingly, to be in the middle of an exotic country; an eccentric hippie-Brit family (Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams as the parents) on a caravan trek; an atmospheric sequence in a Moroccan resort where Hanna gets freaked out by all the electrical devices; Isaacs (Tom Hollander), a sleazy German strip-joint owner who leads his hulky boyfriends in pursuit; a frighteningly tacky fairytale theme park gone to ruin that includes a gingerbread house full of dangling plastic mushrooms; and vivid locations depicting the scuzzy side of Berlin that include a junk-strewn playground where Erik dukes it out with Isaacs and his boys.

Part Frankenstein’s monster grappling with identity, part Truffaut’s L’enfant sauvage learning to exist in the civilized world, yet another part Mindy Kick-Ass Macready, a little girl learning to kick butt, Hanna, as played by Saoirse, is a fascinating fairytale outcast trying to find her place in a very alien world. In the wilderness of Finland where she is brought up as a resourceful killer, Hanna is a fair-haired nymph of the snowy forest. But in her first acts of murder, a shocking moment intensified by Agent Marissa’s aghast reaction, she is a blood-splattered assassin. During her peregrinations in the outside world, she wonders about her place in it all: her parentage; the importance of family; how love works; and how the way she has been created may alienate her from normalcy forever.

The film doesn’t supply much of a resolution, and sometimes the flight/pursuit/vengeance storyline is unsatisfyingly standard, but its unique and often bizarre details, its memorably textured settings, and Saoirse’s compelling performance, make it a film worth seeing.

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