‘Hanna’ can’t reconcile mixture of dual genres

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For her first 16 years, poor little Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives a life of seclusion in the forests of Finland. All that this unfortunate girl has in her life is caribou hunting, two books and her ex-CIA operative father Erik Heller (Eric Bana).

Erik is training Hanna to kill his nemesis Marissa Wieglar (Cate Blanchett), who is equally interested in gunning down Erik and Hanna.

The mission makes up the plot of this thriller, but those two books turn out to be rather important as well.

Erik teaches Hanna from a particularly bland encyclopedia. The encyclopedia is unflinchingly accurate. It holds no happy tales, and no sad tales for that matter, for the little girl. Only the facts.

Before bed every night Hanna reads Grimm’s Fairy Tales. These are not your garden variety Disney stories. Grimm’s stories are often repugnantly violent.

In “Cinderella”, the step-sisters cut off their toes to fit into the lost slipper. But pigeons are rather loyal subjects, so two birds peck the step-sister’s eyes out.

Hanna, the character, and “Hanna,” the film exist in this bifurcated, two-book world.

Hanna is somehow both an exacting, unfeeling assassin and a bizarre, naïve child. Similarly, “Hanna” is both a formulaic international spy thriller and a surreal modern fairy tale.

Director Joe Wright pulls out every trick of the trade, and invents some new ones, to make the encyclopedia and the Grimm’s fit together.

Wright’s action scenes are shot with the stylish flair of a fantasy.

One mad strobe-lit dash in which Hanna is escaping an underground bunker undoubtedly places among my favorite chases sequences of all time. A weaker director would have just flashed the bright lights.

And Wright couldn’t have asked for a better cast. Ronan is perfectly believable as both the lost girl and the martial-arts killer. Veterans Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana support the youngster and they’re unsurprisingly excellent.

Notably, “Hanna” also captures the natural humor of fairy-tale characters bouncing around in reality. Sophie (Jessica Barden), Hanna’s one and only friend, is particularly hilarious as a sort of “Real Housewife of New Jersey” in training.

But despite the best efforts of Joe Wright and his cast, the disparate elements of “Hanna” never really come together.

Unlike, for example, “Leon: The Professional,” where Natalie Portman is constantly threatening and vulnerable, Ronan never seems to be a girl experiencing the world for the first time while also filling the role of a trained killer.

And aside the aforementioned chase, “Hanna” is never a good thriller and a good fantasy at the same time.
Films like “Hanna,” genre-benders that defy the typical Hollywood experience, are bound to leave the audience talking as they leave the theatre. Unfortunately, since “Hanna” lacks cohesiveness, discussion only exposes its flaws.

Wright’s ambition makes it a great film to watch, but a terrible film to think about.

Perhaps the audience shouldn’t have expected anything more. Hanna isn’t reading Dostoevsky up in the Finnish forest. She only knows encyclopedias and children’s tales.

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