Story Pile: Hanna

Nothing quite kills your SEO like a movie getting a series, especially a series with a really similar name. Thanks, Amazon, thanks.

Anyway, Hanna is a 2011 action thriller movie with a deliberately European tone to its story of a runaway super-deadly badass hero who is trying to escape the threat of the  man who says they’re just coming to help but their form of help involves containment tanks and people with unhelpfully vague names like ‘Project Control.’ This one’s note of being interesting is that our badass one-person war machine isn’t just not a dude this time, but isn’t even an adult.

She’s a girl! She’s a little girl, or at least, a teenage girl! And you hit all those normal beats, all your action movie standby points. The first capture, the escape, the on the run, the escalation, the inevitable confrontation in something laced with imagery and all throughout lots and lots of murder, usually by or of assholes. It’s got an excellent couple of fight scenes where Saorise Ronan, who was at the time sixteen or seventeen sells the hell out of being a tiny little murder machine capable of fighting and leveraging her size against much larger opponents, and there’s one of those ‘look at what I can do’ action sequences in a shipping yard. If you like watching bad dudes getting just wrecked when they underestimate a little girl, then this movie is going to give you some good stuff.

There’s also some familiar beats to the ‘living machine’ story. Hanna doesn’t know art or music or anything like that, and so we get to see a lot of this killing machine badass interacting with the world around her. This time around it’s played for alienation. She’s weird and creepy but you want to help explain things to her but people don’t even realise what would need explaining and she wouldn’t necessarily trust that kind of thing and it’s all a big mess.

Hanna doesn’t really push the boundaries of its genre. When I think of it in the context of action movies about killy secret agents who struggle with the power imposed by their immense badassness, it’s definitely Another One. The twist of a little girl at least makes the fight choreography really interesting. As far as stories of deadly little girls go, it’s a really good one?

It’s not a flat recommend, of course. There’s a secondary character, Sophie, who I find incredibly realistic, and annoying. I don’t mind her being annoying, because it’s a very authentic kind of annoying but it might be a bit much. And somehow, this action movie gets into a random bit of ‘let’s talk about a stranger’s genitals in a way that has no bearing on the plot’ that even if it’s not directly transphobic or use any of those key words it still discusses an intersex (probably) person like they’re literally a circus freak, so that’s not good.

There’s a tension in action movies, a sort of measured budget of unreality you can use, like the way that characters can repeatedly fire guns without earplugs and have conversations afterwards, or how nobody bruises, or whatever. In Hanna, the world is really big – people travel through deserts and forests and there are facilities and travel time and there’s a sense of scope, but somehow she keeps bumping into the same small group of people, moving around in that space. It’s a place where Hanna, a small teenage girl, escapes through realistically tiny vents, but then runs through a ventilation system composed of enormous tunnels you could drive a truck through.

This whole thing, though, arranges itself around the weird story structure of what almost feels like a kind of no-name-given Captain America story, you know, a really good one where they don’t want to say Hanna’s part of that project, but Hanna is clearly part of that project. There’s other comparisons as well – you can draw lines between the Bourne movies and Black Widow movie concepts for this one, but I like the Captain America one the best, because there’s a lot of the same concept space, and the same desire to be disconnected from all the violence and just be normal, with her friend.

There’s also a fair bit of talent associated with the work, the kind of talent who can flex how they do things in a way that really influences the whole work. Cate Blanchett’s in it, Erik Bana is in it, and they both do fantastic work. I understand the accents sound weird if you’re more familiar with them but I really don’t care. They didn’t ruin the characters for me. What’s more, the soundtrack is really good, and doesn’t sound like movies in this genre normally do, and that’s apparently the work of the Chemical Brothers.

But the reason I watched this movie is because of one really interesting connection, through one of the actors in the work. It’s a small part – one of the smallest parts in fact, he’s barely on the scene for a few short seconds, he has two or three lines and he leaves the scene just as quickly.

Do you know the name Troy McGreggor?

He was a character in the student film The Final Sacrifice, played by Christian Malcolm, who I can’t shake the feeling has his name the wrong way around. Back in the day, he was a scrawny, hard to like little Ben Shapiro-a-like, before there was a Ben Shapiro. But here, he’s crisp, shaved, suited, and straightforward.

And that’s why I watched Hanna. Because hey! That’s Troy! He’s in another movie! That’s cool!

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