Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Hanna -- coldness of life apart from family
Director: Joe Wright, 2011. (R)
“I just missed your heart.” The main character Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) utters this line to open and close the film. And it aptly sums up the movie: it has no heart. Moreover, the characters seem heartless, cold and detached. None display enough emotion to warrant the viewer caring about what happens to any of them.
We meet Hanna in the wilds of Finland, where she and her father Erik (Eric Bana, Star Trek) live an isolated life, existing on the barest essentials. No electricity, running water or central heating, they hunt their food and chop their wood. He teaches her multiple languages, and facts from the encyclopedia while putting her through rigorous physical training. She is being groomed as an assassin. Erik comes at her by day and by night to attack her with knife or bow, fists or feet, to ensure that she can defend herself against attack. Not what you’d call the normal upbringing for an American teenager.
Hanna has come of age, though. She is ready to face the big bad world. When she challenges Erik about this, he puts a radio transmitter on the table and tells her she can push the button that will send a signal out to the world. More specifically, it will alert Melissa (Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), a high ranking CIA operative who wants both Erik and Hanna dead. Of course, Hanna presses the button, that sets of a three-way chase that is the body of the film.
Erik departs alone to Germany, telling Hanna to follow him later. Melissa sends a military team to capture Hanna. But when she eventually escapes her captors, Melissa sends Isaacs (Tom Hollander), a dirty ops man and his two team members to follow Hanna, and track Erik.
Director Joe Wright has done period pieces before, helming Atonement in 2007, so clearly knows how to create stylish films. But even that Oscar-nominated film was cold, with characters who seemed unrelatable. In Atonement, the best character was played by Saoirse Ronan, the main character here. But Wright seems a little lost with an action thriller. He gets the pacing wrong, fills the screen with people with no personalities and flubs the story. The plot, what there is of it, remains a cipher, unresolved at the conclusion. In a word, it seems pointless.
Melissa is a cold and callous killer. Hanna is a young and robotic killer. Erik is a cynical killer. Isaacs and team are sadistic killers. You get the picture.
Along the way, Hanna meets a liberal English family travelling across North Africa and Europe. Their teen-aged daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) wants to befriend Hanna but does not realize how unaccustomed to relationships Hanna is. As she spends time with Sophie and her family, she shares some moments of tenderness, and the film offers some moments of levity. But even these seemed forced and somewhat extreme.
Early in the film, as they face their isolation, Erik tells Hanna they have everything they need. She denies this, telling him she craves something more. She never says what it is, but the contrast of Erik and Hana with the RV-traveling family underscores her real need: tenderness and love.
A family that focuses on utilitarian pragmatism, teaching survival skills and language lessons but ignores love and friendship, is no family, just a shell. The apostle Paul spoke of love in 1 Cor. 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (verse 1). He went on, “Love never fails” (v.8), and then concludes this love chapter with these words (v.13): “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We may need to learn to hunt and fight and that will keep us alive. But life without love is empty and meaningless. That is Hanna’s life. That is Hanna!
Copyright©2011, Martin Baggs
at 7:00 AM