With a special 24-hour preview after one of the most boring Super Bowls in history, Hanna is the story about a unique young girl (Esme Creed-Miles) raised in the woods by her father, Erik (Joel Kinnaman, Altered Carbon) – a defected mercenary on the run. Erik has spent years building Hanna’s survivalist skills. She is proficient in shooting, hunting, and hand-to-hand-combat: tools needed to endure not just the wilderness, but the government agents on the hunt for them. Especially, special agent Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos), a rogue CIA operative responsible for killing Hanna’s mother.
Yet there’s something different about Hanna. The product of what appears to be some sort of experimentation colony, Erik and Hanna will do whatever it takes to survive and bring down the woman that’s been after them Hanna’s entire life.
A Fairytale Adapted Movie
The series is created by David Farr, a renown theatrical director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is based on the 2011 film of the same name – which Farr had rewritten and adapted from an acclaimed blacklist script written by Seth Lockhead.
What’s unique about the original film is that it’s a modern fairy tale disguised as a survivalist thriller. As a girl hidden away in the woods (Hanna) is whisked away from her quiet world and has gone from reading about the fairytale lifestyle to physically living them, as she runs from an evil step mother (Marissa) who killed her father (Erik).
Likewise, like many traditional fairytales, it’s a script that is about a coming of age rite of passage. Hanna ventures out into the real world like in ‘The Little Mermaid’ to pursue the very things that make us human. Except in this case, replace being a mermaid with… being a genetically enhanced trained assassin.
What strikes me about Hannah, besides the fact that the trailer was one of the only good things about Superbowl LIII, is that it’s a proven formula lately: survivalist stories where a young girl is trained by an older parent, not only to survive independently – but to become fierce and deadly. All the while exploring who she is and what it means to be a girl coming of age.
The survivalist genre has become sort of a thing the past few years. I believe it started with The Road by Cormac McCarthy – a popular book adapted into a movie starring Aragon himself, Viggo Mortensen.
The Road is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a father must keep his boy alive in a hellish journey of survival. It’s a tale of how to survive a barren derelict world, with nothing but bare essentials, a survive at any cost mentality, and the hope of seeing some semblance of a future generation – though why exactly when humanity is all but entirely gone – is a different theme of the story.
‘The Road’ later went onto inspire the design of the game The Last Of Us, arguably my favorite videogame. Since then, there’s become this odd new genre of parents doing everything it takes in keeping their daughter alive. In fact, that’s actually the exact plotline for Logan, this latest (and probably last) season of The Punisher, Birdbox, and by proxy, A Quiet Place – which is very similar in story.
All these movies and shows are about how far someone will go to keep the ones they love alive. Although I used to absolutely love this genre, personally, it has also gone the way of the Zombie for me (Zombie survival stories I consider different from survivalist stories, as it usually incorporates a message on society a la George Romero or proves that the humans are the real monsters a la Walking Dead), as it’s a formula that was once compelling yet arguably getting a little overplayed.
The Hanna pilot is well executed. With calculated lighting meant to evoke the cold of winter, close-up action sequences that tend to be very expressive (as in, we focus on facial reactions), and memorable performances from actors Joel Kinnaman (Altered Carbon) and Esme Creed-Miles (Dark River).
The characters we get to understand rather quickly: Erik is an overprotective father doing whatever it takes to keep his daughter safe. Hanna is a girl growing up with focused combat abilities yet learning about how to be a teenage girl in a world she’s only discovering now.
The world is established enough to promise an intriguing story about a larger organization on the hunt for the two, and the action keeps the pacing on the edge, maintaining the thrill factor of will they or won’t they ever get caught, and how will Hanna survive? My qualm with the pilot though, is it seems they’ve thrown the fairytale element entirely out the window.
Overall, it seems very interesting. But again, if you’re into the survivalist genre, you’ve seen this before.
My Final Take: 8/10
RECAP – FOR THOSE WHO MISSED IT
The following is a recap of the pilot episode that premiered after the Super Bowl. Spoilers Ahead.
The series opens in Romania, 2003. Erik (Kinnaman) patiently bides his time to make his move, which is then soon executed in timely fashion. An evening inside job infiltration of a government training facility of sorts, we see Erik sneak through the armed facility, passing dogs undergoing torturous experimentation, and ending at a room with lines of infants in incubation, where we meet the series protagonist, Hanna.
He stows his baby away with him, brutally taking out some armed guards along his way out. We notice he is someone with special combat training, as he makes short work of his opponents without hesitation.
Just outside the facility, he rendezvouses with Hanna’s mother in a getaway car. The two escaping past a trail of gunfire. They rest at a makeshift hotel for the evening. Share an intimate family moment the following morning. Soon after, the military arrives at their door. The couple sneak out around back with Hanna and drive away, but a large helicopter gives chase with a hail of gunfire brought about by special agent, Marissa Wiegler. They reach the outskirts of a large forest that can provide cover from the chopper for them but must drive past a large open meadow to reach there.
With no choice, they beeline to the forest. With a clear shot the helicopter fires. A barrage of bullets hits the car and it soon crashes into the trees. Hannah’s mother’s corpse lies in front of baby Hanna. Erik grabs the infant and escapes on foot, just as the car explodes seemingly killing the entire family – at least to those chasing them.
We then hear the show’s theme song “Anti-lullaby” written by Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s a soothing rhyme filled with lyrics about not falling asleep, evoking this softly childlike tone that when lyrically analyzed, is stripped away of its innocence – which fits perfect for the series.
We fast forward years into the future. Hanna, now a teenager, kills a deer. She is ambushed by a man who tries to strangle her – later revealed to be Erik himself, her own father. The two live by themselves in the woods on the lam from whomever was tracking them. They have quiet dinners together living off the spoils of the wilderness. He teaches her foreign languages, pop-culture and basic rules for survival: most importantly, that human beings are to be avoided at all costs. That evening, Hanna has her first menarche – a very coming of age moment – but one she ultimately keeps to herself.
The next day a plane flies overhead. Hannah chases after it until she reaches the edge of the forest – where red markings imply the boarder that should never be crossed, as beyond is where civilization might find them.
Later, the two undergo a vigorous training montage. Eric trains Hannah in combat, hunting and shooting. She asks her father that evening why she can’t traverse beyond the red marked boarder. Wonders why exactly it is she is being trained: to serve what purpose? Erik responds that it’s because one day, she will have to fend for herself without him.
The next morning, Hannah tries climbing the trees over the red boarder (maybe the ground is mined? Not certain about the point of this scene). In the distance, she sees another person! Rushes up to them and meets a teen boy sawing lumber. He offers her a Snickers for the first time, which she finds amazing as it’s her first-time having chocolate. He tries to ask if she needs help, but she misconstrues his advances, twisting his arm in self-defense, which makes him leave.
Later on, Erik asks where Hanna was today. The two get into an argument, where Erik ends up slapping Hanna across the face in anger. She’s likewise furious as to why Erik has kept secrets from her throughout her entire life. She wants to know who the people hunting them are.
The next day, she meets up with boy again at the same place. She asks for another Snickers bar. Even tries her first cigarette too. The boy asks questions about Hanna’s personal life, obviously wanting to get to know the girl. She, likewise, wants to know what lies beyond the forest. He offers to show her something amazing and the two ride away together on the boy’s motor cruiser. Hanna loves the feeling of the wind in her hair for the first time.
The two arrive at a communications tower. They climb up a large satellite dish, sneaking inside and share a moment looking at the stars. Just as Hanna is about to share her first romantic experience, they get caught by some evening guards. As the authorities approach, she runs, leaving the boy behind.
Hanna tells her father that evening about the boy, breaking down in tears, as she admits the guards may have seen her face. She mentions that he wanted to touch her – though Erik makes little of it.
He asks his daughter if she wants to leave – to live a normal life. She confirms that she does. He then shows her a picture of Marissa, the woman who killed her mother and wants Hanna and him dead. Hanna understands this is what Erik has been training her for. Tells her father that she’s ready to kill her.
In a faraway location, Marissa spends time with her own family. She soon gets intel about at a girl found yet gone missing at the communications tower – confirming to the audience that Erik was indeed an agent on the run with a daughter not too far from that location – one who’d match the description of the missing girl.
The next morning, Hanna wakes her father. She hears them: Machines, three of them, surrounding all around them. The two pack-up and run, shortly finding a soldier in the woods looking for them. The military have orders to kill Erik and capture Hanna alive.
We see an epic stealthy fight scene. Then the two steal the soldier’s radio. We soon notice, Hanna can sense the soldiers around her – showing beyond human abilities of her senses.
Hanna mentions they need to split the scent – the father and daughter deciding to go their separate ways to throw the military off their trail. She goes over her father’s instructions for situations like these:
If they can’t find each other, to send a postcard to the address he gave her addressed to alias ‘Peter Olson’. Go to Berlin, 224 Heine Strasse everyday at noon. She also goes over her own alias they established together, one her father had her rehearse many times over. Above all, she’s never to trust Special Agent Marissa Wiegler, as she lies.
The two then split up.
Yet moments later, the guards confirm they have Erik in their sights, but before they can kill shot him – Hanna intervenes, announcing “Help Me!” on the radio they’d stolen off a guard.
With this the heavily armed guards approach Hannah to take her away – Erik looking on in shame as his daughter is captured. Orders are given by Marissa to take her in but hide the girl’s identity. Hanna is lifted away in a helicopter. As it rises, she looks out into the sunrise – the promise of a new day awaits.
You can Watch ‘Hanna’ on Amazon Video in March 2019