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Movie Review: 'Hanna' likely to top 2011 favorite lists

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“Hanna”
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden
Rated: PG-13

Many times in movie reviews, the phrase action thriller is preceded by the word mindless.

That's not the case with Joe Wright's film “Hanna.”

It's action packed, to be sure. But there are no gratuitous scenes of utter bombast, and the acting, writing, direction - even the musical score -  are all a good step above the norm for this type of movie.

The opening scene is both jarring because of its content and beautiful because of director of photography Alwin Küchler's brilliant cinematography. In the scene, it appears that a man is attacking a teenage girl; which is true but not for the reasons we might suspect.

The man is Erik (Eric Bana) and the girl is his daughter Hanna, played by Saoirse Ronan, the 16-year-old ethereal beauty (and great actress) who added so much to her last film, “The Lovely Bones.”

Erik is training Hanna to be a fierce warrior; a killing machine. But not for nefarious reasons. He's training her so she can defend herself. He tells her that one day “Marissa” will track her down, and at that point, she will either kill Marissa or Marissa will kill her.

So who is Marissa?

She is played by Cate Blanchett, who performs an intense, riveting and cold-blooded  role as the head of a department of the CIA that deals in high-level assassinations.

Erik retired from the agency and raised Hanna in the wilds of Finland. Marissa isn't pleased that he left the agency and wants to give him his comeuppance, but she seems to have more of a vested interest in Hanna. The reason for that interest slowly but surely comes to the forefront.

Something that can be said, without revealing too much, is that Marissa was responsible for the death of Hanna's mom. Now that Hanna is “grown up” and extremely well trained, she tells her dad she is going to infiltrate the CIA facility where Marissa works.
And that she's going to kill her.

Dad is OK with that - he's been training her for this moment her entire life. They agree to rendezvous in Berlin after the deed is done.

Hanna manages to get inside the CIA, but there's a twist that renders her task incomplete. And so Marissa is even more determined to get rid of the father and daughter.

The film takes off from this point and utilizes the classic cat-and-mouse architecture, incorporated into the drama and action elements of “Hanna.”

Joe Wright, who did the film version of the classic novel “Pride and Prejudice” and the romantic tragedy “Atonement” (also starring Saoirse Ronan), proves he's not a one trick pony and that he can master a number of film styles. The tone here is dramatic, suspenseful, action-oriented and surprising. He manages it all very well. The juxtaposition of beauty and chaos - much like a classic fairy tale - is a movie lover's dream. Hanna - the character - brings Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel to mind.

One pleasant surprise for a film of this nature is that, while plot elements develop slowly, it all comes together in the end. It's all explained but not in a “let's wrap it up” kind of way.

The final icing is the score by the  electronica duo The Chemical Brothers. There hasn't been a soundtrack as heart pounding - and one that serves the film so well - since the work Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil did for “Run, Lola, Run.”  I only own a few movie soundtracks CDs - “Betty Blue,” and “Next Stop Wonderland” among them - but this one is so compelling that I'll seek it out.

Saoirse Ronan is a young actress to be reckoned with. She's riveting in Hanna. We're only about a third of the way through the year, but I'm certain that “Hanna” will end up in my Top 5 films list of 2011.[[In-content Ad]]

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