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‘Hanna’ is stylish, and at times beautiful, but falls short of magnificent

Directed by Joe Wright
Written by David Farr and Seth Lockhead
USA, 2011

A child born into violence is released into the world without a net. Like a young predator first released from its mother and into the wild, Hanna must discover herself as a human being, using only her violent instincts to guide her.

Hanna is stylish, and at times beautiful, but falls short of magnificent. Joe Wright does his very best to create a 21st century fairytale, by using a blunt, and overtly obvious pastiche. It is an idea that creates moments of childish wonder, and a frightening ignorance, but also works to restrict the manifestation of the character Hanna. In other words if feels as though the film is so locked into this particular pastiche it loses sight of the simple idea that drives it, a child’s loss, or crumbling of innocence, which ironically is the idea behind most fairytales. There doesn’t seem to be a doubt that Wright in fact used fairytales to further the turmoil around Hanna’s innocence, but there is a subtlety, or clever wink that is missing.

Fortunately there is a great deal of positives in Hanna as well. Wright handles the film with a very adept hand. Visually, the film has a full color and scope to it. Wright also takes his time with several shots, being careful not to rush the many moments of discovery for the main character, allowing them to take shape through her eyes.

It isn’t simply a violent flash of a film either. There is an intimacy to many scenes that lures us into the naïve world of a child, a world of whimsical possibilities, and sugary dreams of friendship. One particular scene that stands out is a quiet exchange between Hanna and her new found friend. There is an innocent beauty to their whispered exchange, and Wright heightens this by the use of extreme close-ups of the two girls. Their freckled skin and wide eyes reminds us of just how new to the world and unaware of its darkness they are. Under their blanket, and in their promises to each other they are safe from the wolves outside.

The Chemical Brothers soundtrack is also a positive. Their music provides a modern and energetic atmosphere and mood that complements Wright’s direction, which rises and falls with each scene. Moments of quiet contemplation are followed by short and direct explosions of violence. The music works as the heartbeat steadily pumping the film along.

Though the film’s ideals of innocence lost get redundant and over-bearing, there is still a visual flair and an intimacy to Hanna that too often is lacking in many action films.

James Merolla