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Hanna is a cool, confident genre piece from Wright and its narrative is well acted with carefully choreographed fight sequences. It pits a child like assassin against well-trained government troops but our 16-year-old heroine is not to be messed with.
Here are some other movies like Hanna that show that strength isn’t always in numbers and that sometimes the underdog isn’t quite as down and out as they may initially seem.
Sometimes cited as a liberal action film, The Bourne Identity (find some great similar films here) is a film that updates the cold war narrative of its Robert Ludlum penned source material. Starring a troubled Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, this film is an action epic that doesn’t pull any punches.
Bourne is suffering from amnesia and he has little knowledge of who he is. He is very well versed in violence however and his story is one of self discovery mixed in with the pressing need for self-preservation.
In narrative theory there are notable archetypes that aid writers when they start to plot a story. One such device is that of the mentor/student and it can be seen in Hanna and in Besson’s Leon. Featuring a break out performance from a young Natalie Portman, the film focuses on the darker side of human existence.
Portman plays Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl with an abusive father, corrupt police officers, and drug problems that plague her life. Things change however when hitman Leon (Jean Reno) takes her under his wing. The ensuing story is carefully controlled and the interaction between Leon and Mathilda ensures that the film humanises its central pairing which in turn dramatizes the conflict.
A British thriller starring Hanna’s Saoirse Ronan, the narrative follows two female vampires hunted by some of their own who hide out in a sleepy seaside town. Temporarily safe the couple attempt to forge a quiet existence free from fear of attack.
Atmospherically Byzantium is a great movie and the first two acts are brilliant and exciting but it’s let down by a tired and formulaic finale. However it’s stylish, violent, and its narrative explores the legacy of the past and its effect in the present moment.
Jennifer Lawrence has become a household name for her filmic work and it would be easy to put her on this list for her role in The Hunger Games movies. But there is a smaller role (no less notable) that she deserves to be celebrated for in Granik’s Winter’s Bone.
It’s a tale of backwaters American life and Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly, a teenager forced to look after her family in trying circumstances. A bleak and haunting film the conflict is found in more metaphorical places than it is in Hanna but Dolly’s journey in Winter’s Bone is no less of a fight and the consequences are just as damaging.
Hanna is a film in a similar vein to Tarantino’s Kill Bill but I’ve already listed films that explore femininity within the action genre in another articleanother article. The films mentioned above delve into the role that teachers, fathers, or simply those in authority have in shaping the young. In The Bourne Identity it’s a more metaphorical take as Jason Bourne is childlike in his understanding of both himself and the world that he wakes up in.
Hanna’s world is cruel, unforgiving, and not of her making – she was born into it. But that’s true of reality too and we all just have to muddle along and make do with the world that we’re given.
Here are some films similar to Hanna that put the individual in a fight that they have no part in. The following films riff on the action/revenge genre but they take a different approach in telling their stories.
Our hero in Blue Ruin is forced to take revenge on the person that killed his parents. It’s a story about what we’re born into and what’s expected of us.
Brilliantly shot, the cinematography is crisp, and the action is bloody, brutal and unflinching.
Shot in midst of Matthew McConaughey’s renaissance, Mud is a tale of children who find a man hiding in the woods. It’s a touching account of the consequences of actions and the naiveté of youth. This is a film that differs plot wise from Hanna but it explores a similar tale of youth versus experience.
Starring Angelina Jolie, Salt (check out some great similar movies here) is the story of a CIA officer accused of being a defector.
The narrative quickly becomes a fugitive on the run with its focus being on Jolie’s Salt and her ability to fend off attackers.
The above films explore the legacy of the mentor archetype and they are all worth watching. Personally if you liked Hanna I think you’d enjoy Leon: The Professional. They contain stories that are virtually identical and they are exciting movies in their own right that borrow and reuse tropes from the action genre.
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