If we lived in a perfect world, every action movie would feature a soundtrack by an electronic artist. It must be a clever technological manipulator that builds a scene with synthetic beats or a musician that can create unmatchable texture, highs and lows, and has an uncanny ability to engulf the characters. The Chemical Brothers did all that and more in their soundtrack for sci-fi thriller Hanna.
This duo is cinema veterans after “Don’t Think” became the steamy make-out anthem of Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in “Black Swan,” but this time, the music is specifically built around the plot, characters and setting.
When listening to a soundtrack written entirely by an electronic duo, every song is constructed as a score and not like a secondary form of entertainment. Hanna would not have been nearly as good without this soundtrack, nor would the soundtrack be as hypnotizing without a badass young chick trying to kill an evil government official.
Based in Europe, this movie not only has intense action sequences, but also beautiful landscapes to match. From the hilly desert to the frigid arctic, Hanna is an artistic film to say the least. Rapid screen shots and varying camera angles carry this movie through an eccentric storyline of a genetically engineered “super-soldier” (Hanna) who is trained by her father to assassinate the woman who tried to eliminate her kind. Once she becomes ready to take the challenge, a carefully devised plan takes place with some obvious twists and turns on the way.
The Chemical Brothers not only acknowledge the fact that this is an action movie, but also that its main character is a 16-year-old girl by integrating twitching beats and bass throbs with airy and whimsical interludes. “The Devil is in the Details” is a bubbly circuslike theme that engulfs the innocence that Hanna portrays, but its eerie repetition is constantly whistled throughout the movie. Its intense counterpart, “The Devil is in the Beats,” ensures this is no Spy Kids type of action flick.
“Escape 700” can be easily referenced to the duo’s last album, 2010’s Further. The opening reverb continuously rattles in the background as Middle Eastern-influenced beats thump intensity through the screen. Just imagine The Bros performing this song live alongside their legendary light show.
Flashing lights and spinning camera shots bump up the intensity during Hanna’s first escape. While climbing through tunnels and running through halls, “Escape Wavefold” pounds bass and screeches synthetic loops in pure angst. This is one of the first and most appropriate times where The Chemical Brothers take it upon themselves to magnetize the scene with hard hitting beats and manipulated sound.
In a pivotal scene, “Car Chase (Arp Worship)” is subtle and simplistic, letting the scene run its course. The Bros add echoed percussion when necessary, but they maintain a steady loop for the majority of the song. Leading into the closing scene, the music takes a break before the last and most impressively elegant theme runs through the credits.
Stephanie Dosen’s vocals on “Hanna’s Theme (Vocal Version)” are light and peaceful. As the closing song of the movie, this song captures the innocence and naïvete of Hanna. Dosen gracefully chants “begin again” before the song breaks out of its shell. As one of the most consciously constructed songs, “Hanna’s Theme (Vocal Version)” embraces her character’s struggles and triumphs as a child.
This OST has about 10 songs that are easily translated into real life without sounding too much like a background score. While short interludes of distorted sounds and looped beats—the shortest being only 11 seconds—make up the rest of the album and make quite the homework soundtrack, who doesn’t like intense reverb while they are writing?
Hanna isn’t the greatest movie ever made, nor was the soundtrack the most brilliant album of all time, but put the two together, and it’s a creatively ingenious concoction.