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Hanna: The emotive action film

Spoilers abound, so if you haven’t seen this movie yet and are planning on it, I suggest reading this later.

Ostensibly, Hanna is an unremarkable action movie: your eponymous hero is a super soldier teenage girl that, plot points aside, goes about killing things for her cause until the credits roll. All of the markers are there–chase scenes, fast-cutting fights, combat training montage–and you’re unlikely to be surprised by anything that happens. But Hanna is not about a thirst for blood, vengence, justice, whatever; Hanna is about emotion.

Hanna‘s plot is largely inconsequential. It acts as a vehicle to carry the characters to other emotionally pressing situations. Most good guys die. Most bad guys die. The characters themselves take second billing to the feelings they invoke. Hanna forces you to take inventory of each scene and plays with your expectations, never settling for cheap thrills or stereotypes in the face of genuine emotion.

Each character has a specific type, and those that don’t are inserted only for brief comedic appearances. They’re are so clearly defined and formed that every scene feels natural. Of course that’s what he would say, you find yourself thinking. And in this sense, Hanna never has to reach. When Character A enters a new situation, you know what to expect and anxiously await how that’s going to happen.

The movie’s real triumph, however, is the way it deals with violence. This movie is conspicuously devoid of blood and gore. Pain isn’t an emotion, it’s a physical reaction, and as such, it has no place in Hanna. When a group of baddies marches into the house of a do-gooder in search of information, they’re carrying a roll of industrial tubing and about to extract information in a gruesome way. But that information, and the way in which is was obtained, are no where to be found. Hanna, having been desensitized to violence from a young age is never seen killing anyone. Instead, you see her blank stare as she’s doing so, even at the movie’s climax.

The film’s most powerful scene, however, takes place shortly after a teenage boy innocently tries to kiss Hanna while on an impromptu date. Not having experienced physical attraction previously, Hanna comically diffuses the situation. Shortly thereafter, while they’re telling secrets to one another in a sleeping bag, she kisses a teenage girl that she befriended earlier. This is the truest sense of attraction she’s felt in her lifetime and is symbolic of Hanna’s greater narrative: after being raised in the wilderness by her father, Hanna is new to everything.

The action may be what drives the movie and what ultimately puts people in the theater, but Hanna is about discovery and clumsily walking through the new.


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