For those who haven’t seen the movie, I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. From a purely esthetic point of view, it’s not a good movie. The acting is ok, but not great, the cinematography is not great, and the plot is fairly nonexistent. Why do a review? Because it struck me after I had watched it that from a philosophical/cultural analysis point of view, it makes a few interesting points. I could entirely be wrong here, but these are the things that have stood out to me.
Ok, so the movie starts out in the woods of the arctic, and has a young girl (Hanna) out hunting a reindeer. She shoots an arrow and hits the elk and it goes running off, and after a small chase the reindeer goes down and Hanna says that she just missed its heart, and then proceeds to kill it. As she is gutting the animal, a guy comes up from behind her saying that he’s already killed her (caught her off her guard) and a fight ensues, with the man winning and Hanna having to carry the animal back herself for it.
We eventually learn that the man with her out in the woods is her father Erik, and that he’s been training her for who knows what, but he reads to her from what looks like an encyclopedia so that she has knowledge of the outside world. He has trained her to fight, to hunt, and to survive (as well as speak at least 4 languages). She keeps telling him that she’s ready, and eventually he brings in a radio-ish thing which, once turned on, will bring “her” down upon them and that either she will kill Hanna, or Hanna will kill her. Erik tells Hanna about music, and she says she wants to hear it, and he tells her that they have everything they need as it is, but she insists that they do not. Once Hanna flips the switch, Erik cleans up his look, gets dressed in a suit, and leaves while telling Hanna where to meet him in Berlin. Hanna has a prefabricated backstory about where she lives and what she likes to do and is involved with, supposedly for if anyone asks about her.
We find out that Hanna is “abnormal” after she is caught by whoever it is that is hunting her (it could be the CIA, but I forget). Turns out Erik is ex-CIA, and disappeared after awhile, so now there are people hunting both him and Hanna, who escapes their custody after killing several people. The whole movie hinges around Hanna’s experience with the “real world” and her trying to go to where her father is to meet up with her. Along the way she meets a family of tourists, whom she sneaks a ride from and then eventually openly travels with them. Among the family is a little (looks maybe 13?) girl who is about as stereotypically materialistic as possible, and talks constantly. At one point she tells Hanna that she probably would like to be a lesbian, but not a fat, ugly one. One that is a supermodel and eventually ends up marrying a man. Coincidently, or perhaps not, the two of them sneak out to a party in which a guy tries to kiss Hanna, but she ends up attacking him, while later on, in a heart to heart conversation between the two girls, the little girl gives Hanna a friendship bracelet, and Hanna gives her a kiss before going to sleep. The girl calls her a freak, but a friend.
Eventually, some of the people that are hunting for Hanna catch up with her and the family and she has to run, killing one of them and getting away, while the family is caught and eventually give up where she is going. Hanna finds her way to where she is to meet up with Erik and the man living there (who writes children’s fables) meets her and gives her a warm welcome. The man is a bit strange, eccentric to say the least, and tells her that her dad hasn’t told her about any of the good things in life, things like music, magic, and dancing. The bad guys catch up and kill the man, while Hanna escapes.
Along the way, Hanna learns certain things about her, from a computer searching for both her father Erik and for a piece of paper she stole about herself from the CIA, detailing her DNA work. Eventually, Hanna and Erik meet up in a house (the house of her grandmother, before she was killed) and there is a full detailing of where Hanna came from. Erik is not her father, as she was born in a research facility. Some people were doing genetic testing on humans, so that they could essentially breed super soldiers (isn’t that always what it is?). People who are faster and stronger, have suppressed empathy emotions and the like. Therefore, Erik is not her real father, but has raised her from an early age and loves her, but Hanna ends up running out (after a bit of a fight) because of the truth she finds out. It is also revealed along the way that the main person that’s been hunting them is someone who knows about Hanna (presumably, she was involved in her creation at some point) and has an unnatural attachment to her. I believe the woman desperately wants to be Hanna’s mother, though I’m not sure why. She ends up attempting to kill Erik and Hanna’s biological mother and does end up killing the mother, while Erik and baby Hanna escape.
Erik eventually kills everyone that is hunting him, only to be killed by the man woman (Marissa). Interestingly, when Marissa asks Erik why he chose to come back now, he only responds with “children grow up”. When she shoots him, Hanna falls to her knees as if she’s felt the death, or at least heard the gunshot.
Hanna runs back to the original fairytale house, only to find it’s occupant dead. Marissa finds Hanna there and a chase/fight ensues. Eventually, Marissa shoots Hanna in the stomach, while Hanna shoots an arrow at Marissa. The movie ends with Hanna standing over Marissa and telling her that she barely missed her heart, and then shoots her.
You may be asking yourself what the point is, and to be honest, I think the point is that there is no point. It seems to me that this movie is a philosophical statement of nihilism. First, we have the opening and closing scenes in the movie. Hanna kills both the reindeer and Marissa in the same way, and with the same “I barely missed your heart” line. Why would those two scenes be made the same? It seems there is the blatant statement of man and animal being of the same value, with a particular reference to the heart because when people refer to things that make man different from animals, emotion is usually mentioned. Interestingly, when it comes to emotion, we know that Hanna herself has been genetically modified so that her emotions are not as they naturally would be.
There are good guys and bad guys in the movie…sort of. It would seem that perhaps the only protagonist in the movie is Hanna, with Erik being mostly a protagonist, though it’s unclear why he was training her for “her time” in the first place, except maybe so that she could extract revenge. Marissa eludes to the fact that Hanna had been prepared, but never contracted, though that is never expanded. She does seem fairly adamant that Erik is a national security threat, and that Hanna is of secondary concern. Marissa is the main antagonist, though her role is also somewhat obscured. She seems to have a strong emotional attachment to Hanna, even though she deliberately goes around killing anyone related to her. She has tapes, perhaps taken from Hanna’s grandmother, detailing what sounds like her mother’s experience in giving birth to Hanna and the experience of the “procedures” done with the genetic experimenting etc.
Another true good guy would be the eccentric man, Knepfler, who lives in a fairytale house, and represents “all that is good in the world”, namely magic, music, and dancing. Interesting how the only good things in the world are things that exist in a place designed to be a real life version of a series of fairytales. Hanna seems to enjoy the magic and the music and the dancing and the environment while she is there for a brief time, but eventually he gets killed and she moves on. Remember that her father told her, only after she mentions wanting to hear music, that they had everything they needed in their cabin in the woods. At one point, Hanna is in a cheap hotel room and the owner shows her the bed and there is a TV, an electric kettle, and some lights. Hanna gets scared by all the noise of all the electric things in the room, and turns on more while trying to turn some off, and she runs out.
For those of you keeping score, we have total seclusion in the woods as not being good enough, modern conveniences as being scary, no real sense of good people or bad people, man as equal to animal, and the only good things in the world are equated with fairytales and magic.
You have to ask what the whole point of the movie is. Hanna kills the bad guy in the end, but nothing is really solved. She learns the truth about herself, but all that really ends up doing is getting her hunted down and her “father” killed, the only friends she’s made presumably killed, her actual family killed, and she is left alone and does what? She kills Marissa. She does what she was programmed to do. At this point, man becomes even less than animal, he becomes machine. Nothing is solved, because nothing is set forth to solve. The only truth revealed in the movie is pointless because it doesn’t change anything.
If this isn’t a movie about nihilism, then I’m not sure what it could be about. The overwhelming theme is meaninglessness. Nietzsche pronounced that God was dead, and then if God was dead, then so was man. This is the attempt of the materialistic worldview trying to pull meaning out of meaningless simply by pointing it out.