I Was a Teenage Frankenstein: Joe Wright’s “Hanna”

I Was a Teenage Frankenstein: Joe Wright's "Hanna"

“A perfect soldier” is how a military bigwig approvingly describes a headless column of masculine muscle in Robert Minor’s notorious 1916 antiwar cartoon for The Masses. The same phrase appears late in Joe Wright’s Hanna, in the obligatory spell-it-out speech that explains the illicit genetics behind the eponymous heroine’s ability to cut bloody swaths through hordes of armed men. The difference here, of course, is that the killing machine is played by dainty, willowy Saoirse Ronan, whose uncanny appearance—a spectral paleness that seems to blur the boundaries separating her porcelain skin, blanched tresses, and ashen eyes—suggests a pubescent Tilda Swinton in makeup for a Village of the Damned remake. That might have been a nifty visual joke were the film able to register the absurdity and wild humor inherent in its sparrow-sized protagonist’s rampages. As it is, the tomboy-fu on display aims to goose the audience as much as Hit-Girl’s slice ‘n’ dice massacres in Kick-Ass while cloaking its questionable jollies with a veneer of art-house respectability. The resulting superficies often jangle and tingle, but the film’s vision of adolescence as fairy-tale espionage remains tastefully hollow, with its young heroine’s storms of violence increasingly becoming as calculated as any of Shirley Temple’s tap dances of pouting and sniffling. Read Fernando F. Croce’s review of Hanna.

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