by Heather Trow
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In the realm of assassin movies, there aren’t many that feature children prominently. Perhaps the most famous child-centric assassin movie is The Professional, and it could be argued that it’s most famous because it is Natalie Portman’s best (and first) performance to date (not to mention the wonderful Jean Reno and Gary Oldman).
In Hanna, the stakes are even higher because the child is not only in the mix, she IS the killer. The brilliant Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones) is Hanna. She can eat a raw egg when there is no other food available, she can outrun moving vehicles, she can break a man’s legs and shoot him through the head without blinking an eye.
The tone of the movie is set right from the first scene. Hanna is out hunting and kills a deer. She approaches the deer and says to its dying form, “I just missed your heart”. Yes, it’s a bit of a groaner, but it’s also an accurate introduction to the character.
What’s perhaps most amazing about Ms. Ronan’s performance is her ability to endear herself to the audience without doing much emoting. She’s distant, sometimes comically so, but she’s one of the most watchable actresses working today, constantly surprising us with her choices and depth of character. She’s truly remarkable.
Her nemesis is Marissa Wiggler (Cate Blanchett). From the very beginning it is set up, just like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, neither can live while the other survives. And so it’s off to the races, with a series of exciting though completely improbable sequences in which Hanna is confronted with death (in the form of Marissa), and escapes. The movie is a fun romp, if you’re willing to suspend disbelief. It is suspenseful and at times scary. It tugs at your heart strings an acceptable amount, not too much, which is quite a feat considering there’s a child involved. A forgettable Eric Bana (unquestionably one of the worst actors working today) plays Hanna’s father, and Blanchett spends most of the movie doing an inconsistent, heavy southern accent. It’s surprising coming from Blanchett, normally so awesome with dialects. Nonetheless, she is a fearsome foe, one that you would not want to encounter in a dark alley.
Maybe the loveliest sequence in the movie is spent tooling around the countryside with an English family Hanna has stowed away with. Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) gives the film’s second-best performance in her small but stunningly lovely role as Rachel. Hanna gets to experience some genuine family time (though it’s not her own family) and make a friend, which was a nice touch to the movie, though it goes a bit too far towards the end.
And of course, the final showdown has you on the edge of your seat. It’s not nearly as perfect as Atonement (director Joe Wright’s most seminal film to date), but it is certainly a thrilling night at the movies.
Heather Trow is an actress, writer and alternative comedy enthusiast.
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