May 28, 2012

Rabid Rewind: Hanna

starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett
directed by Joe Wright
screenplay by David Farr and Seth Lochhead
Focus Features (2011)

It wasn't until after the movie was over and I voiced my initial reaction on Twitter that I found out the girl playing the title character, Hanna, was the same actress who played Susie Salmon in TheLovely Bones. Either the adaptation of one of my favorite books from the last decade wasn't that memorable, or Saoirse Ronan really disappeared into her role and did a magnificent job. I prefer to hold to the latter.

Hanna is a Euro-thriller that could be described bluntly as La Femme Nakita meets Alice in Wonderland--fewer Cheshire cats, more henchmen with guns. Hann (Ronan) is a seventeen-year-old living in the snowy desolation of northern Finland with her father, Erik (Eric Bana). She's been trained pretty much since birth to be a killer. Erik, a former CIA agent gone rogue, has been caring for Hanna while in hiding to prepare her for the day when she could assassinate the CIA agent responsible for her mother's murder, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). The movie basically starts with Hanna activating the homing device that will signal the CIA to her presence and bring her in, while Erik leaves her alone to her mission.

After a lengthy detainment in a secret facility, Hanna kills a decoy posing as Wiegler, then escapes the facility only to find herself alone and unfamiliar with everything she sees. She learns she is in Morocco and falls in with a family on vacation and on their way to Berlin. Wiegler, meanwhile, employs an old ally to hunt down Hanna and retrieve her while she hunts down Erik. From there, the movie works on two plains: Hanna is a babe in the woods that is ... well, everything that is not Finland; she is also an assassin on the run and resolute in completing that mission and finding out what her true family ties are and why she and her father have targets on their backs.

Ronan does a remarkable job of portraying a young woman who is nearly childlike in her wonder while experiencing life outside the company of her father for the first time, and also a determined and almost sinister assassin who is much more capable and dangerous than her pursuers give her credit for. Cate Blanchett is, as usual, a treat to see perform and with a character to delightfully evil to play, she makes one helluva villain. Everyone else is pretty good, but it's the cat-and-mouse dynamic between Ronan and Blanchett that carries the movie.

Strip away the taut mystery behind Hanna's origins and Erik's history with Wiegler and the CIA, and you've still got one of the better action movies to come along in years with fight scenes and chases that were absolutely exhilarating to watch. Ronan's initial fight scene inside the holding room of the CIA compound and Bana's one-take/one-camera brawl in a parking lot were two real stand-outs. Throw in the humor of a fish-out-of-water teen trying to fit in with people her own age and the movie feels downright original at times.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to just about anyone, and I'm left hopeful that Ronan gets more roles like this to shine--and Blanchett gets to play more villains.

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