|INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)|
|Cinema Signal: For action fans, this is paydirt.|
Give me a well-made action fantasy and keep it on this side of human limits and I'll probably love it. Even if the female lead is a smart, self-contained explosion of energy and speed like Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones." But as semi-convincing as this teenager is in this variation on hitmen, director Joe Wright gets very pushy once again in straining that old bugaboo, credibility, in order to sell the concept.
Ronan at sixteen has a mercurial beauty, with a controlled elegance and intensity. Which is to say she's not likely to win beauty contests, but she compensates for that under-qualification by the love she has for the camera and it's love for her. Time will only ingrain that impression deeper.
All of which is to say that she's a model choice for a most unusual teenager--one who has been imbued with special potentials and whose parents are dead by evil hands. And, also, the defensive and offensive martial arts training she has undergone under the tutelange of her unsparing but loving father/uncle, Erik (Eric Bana, "Troy").
In a modest forest home in the northern climes of Finland they've been sharing the self-sustaining rigors of life devoted to an ultimate level of survival, both in terms of scarce food and against the brutal enemies she will soon face.
It includes marksmanship, weaponry, strategy, aggression, split-second counter maneuvers, anticipation and as much brutality as might be need to put away her adversary. She can sever a head with no compunction. All the things a young girl bent on revenge needs in order to reach old-age. Erik has done a smashing job with his spirited, super-athletic 13-year-old ward, but the one thing he's not ready for is to set her loose when she claims she's ready to go out and face her arch enemy Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett, "Babel").
Fear is not part of her vocabulary and she departs for Berlin. There, she's quick to grasp the unfamiliarity of a modern city with the enthusiasm and wonderment of a tourist discovering alien civilizations. But, it's she who is the alien in the real world and woe be to those who would do her harm and underestimate the powers locked in her slight, not yet fully developed body.
This is demonstrated when she's taken into captivity at the orders of her super-slick nemesis, intelligence agent Wiegler. Of course, she's allowed herself to be captured as a ploy to gain access. The tactic works, but not as designed. While Wiegler watches her captive on her monitor, Hanna gets rowdily uncooperative with agents who try to grill her... until they send in a woman claiming to be Wiegler. What Hanna does to this woman, and to armed guards trying to thwart her escape, shocks Wiegler into realizing that this little girl is a deadly adversary.
The lines are drawn for the kick-ass chase thriller that this becomes. It's enough to set the contest in motion and, for action fans, it's paydirt. On the other hand, it lets director Wright loose on an extravagant display of action designed to exploit the fairy tale of a girl who can outwit, outfight and outkill a horde of orcs. For this he has been whipped by some critics.
I, on the other hand, reveled in the quality of the production that conveys such unbridled fury in the guise of a unique central figure. It's an adrenalin rush to watch this dynamo spontaneously deal with all the brutal thugs who are given no time to think about their wrong presumptions.
A "Bourne Identity" it's not -- nothing so shaded in complexity and outstanding in depth. By comparison, this is simplistic. But it has a class all its own, and that's by virtue of a very game, intense little lady called Saoirse (pronounced "Sheer-sa").
It's been said that Ronan is better than the films she's had the good fortune to be in so far. While I agree, I don't think there's any doubt that the talent she has shown in making the most of those opportunities will serve her well in an accomplished career. It'll be our good fortune to watch the sprig grow.
Blanchett's character is much more the cutout villain and, marvelous actress that she is, can't fight the standard nature of her stock role. Bana's natural empathy affords him greater individuality in any role he takes up, even in an underwritten, functional one as this.
~~ Jules Brenner