'Hanna' Review: A breath of fresh air in a space flooded with male-centric content

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

There is something about the long-form storytelling that makes it highly addictive and ever reliable.  About a decade back, the English filmmaker Joe Wright came out with a film called Hanna (2011), which was based on a story by the Canadian writer Seth Lochhead who also co-wrote the screenplay along with the British writer-theatre director David Farr. It revolved around a sixteen-year-old girl who is raised in the wilderness by a man named Erik to be the perfect assassin even as a CIA agent named Marissa tries to track her down. It proved to a box-office success. Last year, about eight years after Hanna was released, a series adaptation of the movie premiered on Amazon Prime Video. Helmed by David Farr, who was also one of the screenwriters on the original movie, the Amazon series more or less retells the same story. But why tell the same story all over again? Well, that’s precisely where the charm of the long-form storytelling comes into play. But, for it to work well, the most important ingredient, perhaps even more important than the story itself, are characters.

Now, as far as the long-form narrative is concerned, one or two good characters aren’t enough. For, it requires a lot more than that. We are talking about an entire gamut of interesting characters fully capable of being developed further and further, as and when required, episode after episode, season after season. There is no denying that the story of Hanna in itself is quite engaging—a teenage girl who is raised in the wilderness to be an assassin relentlessly chased down by a CIA agent. So, with a character like Hanna at the centre, it becomes relatively easier to shape up other characters around her. But Farr goes further than that. What he manages exceptionally well in the series is that he is able to give it a gender flip. In Farr’s own words, “I’ve always felt the film was weirdly male, but knew this TV series would have a more female-centric quality.” What’s even more heartening is that the second season of Hanna, which recently got released on Amazon Prime Video, is even more female-centric than the first.
In a space flooded with male-centric content, Hanna comes across as a breath of fresh air. While the first season was about Hanna, Eric, and Marissa, the second season is about Hanna, Marissa, and a bunch of other girls of Hanna’s age (Clara, Sandy, and Jules, among others) who are part of the same Utrax program Hanna was rescued from as a child by Erik. The new season offers an interesting contrast between Hanna and the other girls. Hanna, who has grown up in the wilderness, enjoys freedom of the will that the others don’t, having lived all their lives in a virtual jail under strict supervision. While the performances are solid all around, it is Mireille Enos who is absolutely brilliant as Marissa Wiegler. The character in the second season has more layers and her complex relationship with Hanna, among other things, elevates the series far beyond the scope of the original film, effectively demonstrating the enormous potential of the long-form storytelling.
A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian.

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