Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 8, 2011 Released by: Focus Features
What could be a cousin to The Bourne Identity or Kick-Ass is done with considerable skill by Joe Wright (Atonement) as a kind of cool action allegory of an English/German production.
The director, known for his fine rendering of literary sources like Pride & Prejudice not to mention the aforementioned which starred Keira Knightley also has one of that film's bright, younger thespians Saoirse Ronan headlining his fairly heady, piquant (multi-lingual) Hanna.
The teenager, who navigated a variegated world in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, provides able emotional and moral shadings to the titular 16-year-old raised in seclusion to be the perfect assassin of a fairy tale princess. While the tale has her dispatched across Europe tracked by ruthless CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) and her operatives, the girl with a photo of her dead mother kept inside of a Brothers Grimm book follows the self-defense adage, "adapt or die."
Hanna almost acts likes the cunning Evelyn Salt able to lure and defeat her foes, eluding a high-security bunker and heading into the Moroccan desert. She plans to meet her father Erik (Bana) who raised her from a small cottage in Finland in Berlin, sheltering her from shadowy menacing forces after her from birth.
The opening shows Wright's affection for capturing wide desolate landscapes as he does quite well with his lenser to exact extending, winding shots. The celestial, alabaster-looking Hanna just misses the heart of a reindeer she pierces with her arrow in the snow. She has trained to kill under the tutelage of Erik as the father/daughter relationship is important as he reminds her, "Remember what I told you."
This sets up enough excitement of the zooming, stimulating kind, just like The Chemical Brothers who provide the pulsating synthesized soundtrack. A climax at the Wilhelm Grimm house offers some funhouse pleasure as the improbably incisive extraordinary heroine has to save herself amid murder and vengeance.
Part of the investment into Hanna is the interpretation of such a modern Snow White ferocious character so well-groomed in self-defense. The perspective is abetted through the support of actors like Jessica Barden as tart-talking British teen Sophie on vacation with her mother (Olivia Williams) in a RV. Scenes having Hanna with Sophie and her mom have more of a payoff than just an amusing comic diversion. Otherwise, Blanchett (sporting a red bobbed coif and an unsteady accent), Bana, and to a lesser extent Tom Hollander as a louse of a minion can't do that much with their thinner, less defined roles.
Nevertheless, the conviction of Ronan rises under Wright's assured transition to a genre that can provide its share of thrills without crumbling under noticeable metaphorical foundation (or a finish which may not have the expected bang). Her work under fight choreographer Jeff Imada's guidance offers sleek ingenuity as Hanna exudes pride and verve with Sarah Greenwood's proper production designs definitely in sync with solid use of locations in Finland, Germany, and Morocco.