Raised to Kill
Anyone that has heard of the action franchise Hanna probably knows it from the Amazon PrimeWhile Netflix might be the largest streaming seervice right now, other major contenders have come into the game. One of the biggest, and best funded, is Amazon Prime, the streaming-service add-on packing with free delivery and all kinds of other perks Amazon gives its members. And, with the backing of its corporate parent, this streaming service very well could become the market leader. series. Produced across three seasons (season one, season two, and season three), that show did a good job of taking the concept -- a girl genetically engineered to be a cold-blooded killer (like a young, female Jason BourneLost without his memory, but bearing a particular set of skills, Jason Bourne has to figure out who he is and just why everyone seems to want him dead. just without the connection to that series) who was then raised to hunt down her own creators -- and make it until a compelling show. That series was pretty good (even if it was a little betrayed by its rushed last season), but many people may not be aware it was originally based on a movie of the same name.
Released about a decade ago (give or take), 2011's Hanna bears more than a passing resemblance to the series that came out in 2019. The story starts from the same spot -- Hanna, having lived most of her live in the remote forests of Finland, then has to go chase down her creators -- but where the series tells a long and sprawling story about the conspiracy around this energetic girl-soldier program, the movie tells a tight and focused tale. It's hard to say which is more successful; the 2011 movie feels like it's waiting for a continuation that will never come while the TV show maybe ran for too long while still not getting all the time it needed (it's complicated and you're better off reading my review of that third season to get the full gist). Still, for a tight and action-packed hour-and-a-half, it's hard to deny the charms of the film version of Hanna.
Having been raised since the age of two in the woods by her father Erik (Eric Bana), Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan) has grown to be a capable and effective warrior. She can hunt, she can kill, she has incredible book knowledge, and she knows a whole shit-ton of languages. She is, in effect, the perfect stealth killer, and that was by design. A secret government group, backed by the U.S., engineered a group of babies to be super-soldiers, but when the program was scrapped by its lead agent, Marissa Wiegler (an always incredible Cate Blanchett), Eric took Hanna and her mother, Johanna (Vicky Krieps), on the run. Johanna sadly died, but Erik kept Hanna safe until it was time to unleash her on the world.
Now, thirteen years later, Hanna is ready to go. Putting out a signal purposefully designed to draw out Wiegler and her agents, Erik and Hanna (separately) go on the run with plans to meet up in Berlin. Hanna gets captured by the agents, on purpose, and then escapes just to prove she can, and then she leads a merry chase from Morocco across Europe before ending up in Germany. With Wiegler and her goons taking out everyone she meets, Hanna knows that she has to find a way to end the hunt and find her freedom. It's just a question of if she, or anyone she loves (including her father) will come out of this alive.
Tonally this film has a lot in common with the TV show to come. That does seem obvious, not only because the show was designed to act as a fleshed out version of this movie (starting in the same place and only diverging near the end of season one), but also because it was spearheaded by one of the creators of this movie. David Farr, who co-wrote this movie, also served as creator and executive producer on the show, so his vision was well-represented in both works. He clearly knows this character and wanted her conveyed on screen exactly as she appeared in his head.
It does help that the actors brought on fully embody their roles. Eric Bana doesn't always get as much respect as he deserves (in part because of the awful Hulk, but while the actor generally gets mired in weak genre fare (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, anyone?) he always gives a solid performance. Cate Blanchett is, of course, always amazing and she has fun with her performance here. She does put on a weird accent, which is a little distracting, but she certainly doesn't sleepwalk through this film at all.
The standout, though, is absolutely Ronan as Hanna. In her hands Hanna is both a cold-blooded killer and a teenage girl. The film find Hanna meeting another teenager, Sophie (Jessica Barden), and they bond and become friends. This lets us see Hanna not just as an eager sociopath ready to kill her pursuers (as the opening act of the film demonstrates) but also as a girl struggling to find her identity in the world (and understand the greater world as well). Why this all works, though, is because Ronan is able to make both of these sides of Hanna feel like the same person. She's tough and brutal but can also be lost and confused and a teenager. You need the right actress to pull all of that off, and Ronan does it with aplomb.
All that being said, the film isn't perfect by any means. While the action is fantastic (lots of solid gun play and a decent knife fight), and the euro-club soundtrack kicks a lot of ass (man, those pulsing beats are so good), the story holding it all together feels a touch half-baked. We know that Wiegler wants Hanna, dead or captured (and for much of the runtime, preferably captured), and we know the program that created Hanna is "shut down", but those two elements don't align. Killing Hanna is one thing, as that ensures the program remains shut down, but why capture here? What's to be gained there? That's never explained and it does make it seem like maybe there's a larger conspiracy at play... which never gets explored (at least, not until you watch the TV remake).
Meanwhile, the whole last act of the film is very rushed. Without spoiling anything (although the film is over 10 years old so I feel less bad about spoilers), the last 20 minutes boils everything down to a cat-and-mouse game in Berlin. All the characters that we met before are dropped, never to be seen again (so we don't know their fates), and even Wiegler and Hanna's story gets boiled down to a simple gun fight. There is nice parallel shot between the two that mirror's the opening of the movie, but beyond that you feel like the writers didn't really have an ending that worked perfectly and just settled for tying it up with a neat bow that really doesn't tie up anything at all.
Generally speaking you expect the first version of something to be the best. Copies and remakes dilute down a story, attempting to be smart but usually failing at that. In the case of Hanna, though, this original film does feel like a rough draft of the TV show to come. The bones are here, and the clear understanding of the main character is never in doubt. As far as providing a satisfying story, though, it never quite comes together. Maybe the writers had a vision for sequel they couldn't get off the ground (despite rave reviews this movie did only make $65 Mil on a $30 Mil budget, not enough to justify a sequel), or maybe the thought of "what's next" came later, when actress Ronan was too old for the role. Whatever the case, the show does a solid job of fleshing out the world in ways the movie simply couldn't.
I don't know which one I honestly prefer (the show does have it's own faults, especially in its short yet meandering third season), but I do like the character and the setting. This film provides a nice, quick does of teen girl Jason BourneLost without his memory, but bearing a particular set of skills, Jason Bourne has to figure out who he is and just why everyone seems to want him dead. in a way that the show's longer format simply can't. If what you want is a quick burst of action with a compelling character then the film is where it's at. However, anyone looking for a deeper story, and more exploration of the conspiracy behind it all will have to look to the show for answers. The best thing I can say about the film is that it makes me wish they could revisit this version of the world to further push this Hanna. I think she's great and she deserved more than she got.