"Adapt or Die"


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Hanna is the kind of movie that fills the darkness of your driveway with overwhelming menace. The violence and action linger because they are choreographed by a master - that would be Joe Wright who has made startling beauty of physical movement and ominous foreboding. It is unlike anything I have seen before. The movie works beautifully for the first hour only to dissolve after that in the prosaic mush of flowing blood and crushed bones common to ordinary action movies. But let's get to that first good hour.
            In a vast frozen landscape, a hunter shoots an arrow into a deer who runs on for a while before falling, then to be killed by a bullet from the hunter's pistol. The hunter is Hanna, played with great skill and control by Saoirse Ronan. The father who is coaching her is Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent called in by the agency and sent even further out into the cold to train his daughter to become an invincible assassin. They have lived together in frozen isolation for all of Hanna's 16 years.
            By the time we meet, Erik has taught Hanna the techniques of weaponry and martial arts with an assassin's twist. In their small cabin he points to a box on their table and tells her that when she is ready to go into the real world, she can simply flip the red switch. When she decides to go, he warns, CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (the wondrous, but here unfortunately robotic Cate Blanchett) will kill her on sight. We are not told why. Hanna flips the switch, of course.
            That's quite a premise, and so is Hanna's trip to reality. Everything she sees is for the first time: electricity, a computer, boats, cars, streets, cities, people - who is evil, who is good? There's great fun in watching Hanna's surprise at a shower, a fan, TV, a light bulb, a first kiss, though she reacts to anything new as if it's a threat .
            The steely sharp Marissa sets a terrible tracker on Hanna's trail. He is ugly to the core - a soft, fleshy blond pudding who whistles while he works. From this point forward, Hanna uses her father's lessons: "Adapt or die; Gain the upper hand." The artful dance of violence we have been watching crumbles into a long hour of shootings, stabbings, explosions, and a race across Europe. The death toll mounts before Hanna and Marissa finally meet in a fusillade of revelation and violence that is almost too complex for a merely mortal audience to grasp.
            You may be okay with that, but do note that this PG-13 movie should have been rated R. As it is, young children will now be able to see it "accompanied by an adult," and they are likely to be haunted by its violence. If you are between 13 and 100, you too may look over your shoulder for a few days.


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