Hanna is a PG 13 dark fairytale thriller, a sci-fi spy movie with heart. Raised to be the perfect assassin, lonely Hanna is up against the CIA and herself. Who wins? Us.

Rated PG 13

Buy Hanna [DVD] (from £3.24)

The spy genre always seemed far-fetched to me. With the near inhuman prowess of some of its operatives, the genre often feels like science fiction that’s gone to the wrong dance wearing the wrong dress – and you’re left desperately hoping it doesn’t hook up with the wrong person and get into the back of the wrong car. Think about it; the gadgets, the cars, the women; it’s sci-fi lite, allowing testosterone-driven men to indulge in escapism as much as their more gentle and laidback nerd counterparts. Consider, just for a squishy moment, how many awkward erections would ensue from a 007 and Doctor Who cross-over…

Hanna is a spy movie with a difference. It embraces its true nature and uses sublimely integral sci-fi elements not as draw cards, but as clever plotting to propel a powerful, character-driven movie.

Hanna movie trailer

The central conceit of the plot concerns a CIA project to create super soldiers through the birthing of wannabe-superheroes; obviously, not a single member of the CIA has read a Hulk comic. When the project gets scrapped, CIA recruiter Eric Heller (Eric Bana) tries to save one of the mothers and her little wunderkind but his rescue ploy doesn’t work out: Heller runs off into the woods to raise wonder-baby alone in winter wasteland, devoid of human contact.

In near-solitude Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is raised to speak many languages, have an encyclopaedic knowledge of almost everything, and kick butt harder than a troop of goose-stepping Nazis… but such a lonely upbringing creates a definite lacking in her sense of self. Once Hanna comes of age, she’s ready to face the outside world. She’s ready to face the demons of her past. She’s ready to flip the switch…

From this point in the movie becomes a winding maze of lies, panic, regrets, mistakes, budding adolescence, friendship, a German in tiny white shorts (very important), a neo-liberal hippy-ish British family and some strange though captivatingly surreal moments. And lots and lots of kicking arse.

Fun fluff aside, expect superb dramatic tension arising from Hanna’s conflicting needs to reconcile past sins and struggle for an autonomous future. On the one hand she’s a remorseless killing machine, so gosh-darn gung-ho you’ll flinch for a week every time a schoolgirl walks past. On the other hand, her fumbling inexperience at forming social bonds is believable and utterly endearing. Just when her brutal killing spree begins to feel like a distant memory: BOOM.


What is she doing to his spine? Where did my preconceptions go?

If spy movies are allowed to nestle under the very broad umbrella of science fiction, they can also be judged by its standards. Shallow sci-fi thrusts lots of shiny things in your face, takes you to exotic places filled with exciting creatures and bombards you with so much over-the-top that none of it has any real impact. Hanna falls into the classy sci-fi camp. Convincing characters are placed in very relatable – albeit hyperbolic – experiences. It’s the struggle with themselves and their situation that drives the story, not some suit in a board room scheduling explosions every three seconds.

Science fiction, like all good fiction, lets us play with reality so we can better understand our own. Nice job, Hanna.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a German in tiny white shorts?

Hanna Movie Quotes

Erik: The blue whale’s music can be heard for over five hundred miles. A blue whale’s tongue weighs overs two and a half tonnes.
Hanna: What does music feel like?

Buy Hanna [DVD] (from £3.24)


Buy Hanna [DVD] (from £3.24)