Hannah (2011; dir. Jon Wright) is a far removed version of The Tempest—a young woman raised by her father in the Arctic wilderness, with no opportunities for contact with other people. Her father is, as we learn early on, training her for guerilla-style, ninja influenced combat. The film quickly introduces several mysteries that it immediately sets to unraveling. What is Hannah being trained for? Who is her father, and why is he marked for termination by a secret security agency? What happened to Hannah’s mother? Who are the people who want to track Hannah and her father down?
These questions are more interesting than the answers. Saoirse Ronan is very good as Hannah, a perfect sort of combat machine. She is aggressive, combative, and strangely unemotional—she has been, as we learn, raised to possess these traits, and “raise” has two distinct meanings. We learn about Hannah from her actions, from what she does; we know little about her otherwise. She says very little, and she spends most of the film trying to elude pursuers.
This could be an interesting film about identity or about nature vs. nurture or about the extents to which governments will go in covert operations. Hannah could also be a suspenseful thriller, but it really fails to be any of these. It substitutes stylish camera work, frenetic editing, and rhythmic music for substance. After a time it becomes monotonous. The set-up is promising. The carry-through is disappointing. Saoirse Ronan creates an interesting character who doesn’t have much of a story.