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HANNA (2011) (***1/2)

There are a bunch of movies that this thriller brings to mind. It's like THE PROFESSIONAL crossed with the BOURNE series and a touch of KICK-ASS. The first and last of those films because of the young female protagonist and the middle one for its reality grounded action. But then you get a dose of fairy tale woven in as well.

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There are a bunch of movies that this thriller brings to mind. It's like THE PROFESSIONAL crossed with the BOURNE series and a touch of KICK-ASS. The first and last of those films because of the young female protagonist and the middle one for its reality grounded action. But then you get a dose of fairy tale woven in as well.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, THE LOVELY BONES) is 16 and has been living in the frozen woods with her father virtually her whole life. He is Erik (Eric Bana, HULK), a rogue CIA agent who has trained his daughter to be a ruthless killer. She is a smart girl who speaks multiple languages and can best her dad in a physical fight. He has prepared her for the inevitable day when Marissa, known as The Witch (Cate Blanchett, INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL), finds them. His motto is "adapt or die."

A threat situation is no problem for Hanna. What she has a real problem with is adapting to the real world. She's only heard of electricity. She's never met another woman or a girl her own age. Along her mission to reunite with her father once they are discovered, she meets a family on holiday. Sophie (Jessica Barden, TAMARA DREWE) is her age, but she couldn't be any more different than Hanna, who knows facts, but not how to relate to people in a normal way. Awash in pop culture and lip gloss, Sophie might as well be an alien from outer space to our heroic wild child.

This is not the only interesting contrast the film brings forth in the time that Hanna shares with the family. It brings to the forefront the harsh reality of how her father has raised her. She marvels at Sophie's mother, the hippie Rachel (Olivia Williams, RUSHMORE), and her flummoxed husband Sebastian (Jason Flemyng, SNATCH), who just would like it if his daughter stopped using the word vomitorium. Hanna doesn't even recognize that Sophie's little brother Miles (Aldo Maland) is crushing on her big time. The way the family happily interacts is a thing of great beauty to Hanna, whose father has probably never touched her unless he's throwing her to the ground to test her skills.

Ronan of course sells her role like an actress twice her age. Director Joe Wright, who brought her to an Oscar nomination in ATONEMENT, discovered a real talent. She handles the action with intensity and focus, while bringing real joy and fragility to the fish out of water moments. Her honesty in these vulnerable scenes helps build the film's tension. If she can't handle a ceiling fan, how is she ever going to make it on her own? Has her father's training let her down?

We fear for her because of whom she is up against. Marissa is ruthless and cold. She looks prim and proper on the outside, but her dental hygiene kit, which looks like a medieval torturer's tool sack, reveals her sadomasochistic side. There are reasons she needs to put every available resource into finding Erik and Hanna. Secrets both governmental and personal are at stake. And for added measure she gets a creepy, whistling henchman named Isaacs, played with flashy bleach blonde abandon by Tom Hollander of Wright's PRIDE & PREJUDICE.

Amid the personal stories, Wright crafts nicely designed action sequences, which thankfully allow us to actually see the fight choreography, instead of being whisked along on frenetic cutting where we need to guess what went on. We've seen chases done at shipping container docks in many films, but Wright makes this one exciting.

Hanna is like a fairy tale character in many ways. She is warned of the dangers out in the world and is sent out still a bit naive to face them. Witches and wolves and Neo Nazis lurk out in the city. Her father leaves the bread crumbs out in order to find her way home. The ending takes place at a dilapidated Grimm's Fairy Tale inspired theme park. Is she ready to face the witch who wants to eat her or will she be the one who ends up in the oven?

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Rick DeMott
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