I suppose if one is looking to cast the part of a sixteen year old, cold and calculating killing machine, brought up by a rogue CIA operative in the frozen wilds of the Arctic circle, whose sent on a mission to do away with her father's enemies, and whose chilling blue eyes and brilliant dead stare can instill fear into the hearts of all those around her, one could not do much better than Saoirse Ronan. Becoming the very embodiment of innocent evil as the conniving brat who off-handedly destroys two lives in Atonement, nobody her age does fear and dread better than the Academy Award nominated Ms. Ronan.
Directed by Ronan's Atonement director Joe Wright, Hanna is certainly a thing of beauty to look at. With Wright's weaving camera and penchant for lengthy tracking shots, and his use of sudden shift changes, Hanna soars into the cinematic stratosphere (as it were) from moment zero. The film rockets around (Wright's audacious filmmaking style is the perfect match for this film) before culminating in great and grandiose style (its opening and closing mirroring each other like two sides of the same fucked-up coin) and it is Ronan's dead-on bravura performance that keeps everything going at breakneck speed throughout.
Though Wright's direction and the way he manipulates each scene is as deft here as it was in both Pride & Prejudice and the aforementioned Atonement, and his choice of using the music of The Chemical Brothers as an appropriately unstable score is pitch perfect (as they say), it is Ronan's titular killing machine that is the real chewy center of this movie. Feral but with a subtle innocence about her, Ronan tears this movie into little pieces with this dangerous concoction. The young (just turned seventeen on the day I screened the film) actress is nubile enough - in both mind and body - to take on just about any role given her, and it is this attribute that allows her to veritably own this movie - even when playing nemesis to the always great Cate Blanchett.
In fact Ronan's style (and even her look in a way) reminds one of the aforementioned Ms. Blanchett, and because of this they play off of each other quite well, complementing one another even though they have very few scenes together. When Blanchett's CIA handler and Ronan's rogue agent's daughter finally do come face to face - and the secrets are finally revealed - the film takes it up another ratchet or two as these two remarkable forces of nature (both actors and characters) try to destroy one another. Meanwhile, Wright's camera moves effortlessly throughout all of this, painting hues of demented reds and cool, mocking blues and in the end we are sent back into that proverbial stratosphere, some of it quite purposefully absurd, as the film comes to an abrupt and rather appropriately chilling end. [04/16/11]