Once upon a time, there was a movie that cleverly combined a modern fairy tale with an action thriller. Its title character was a sixteen-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan) who lived in a snowy Arctic forest with her father (Eric Bana) who schooled her in the art of languages, survival skills and deadly hand-to-hand combat.
In keeping with one of the recurring themes of children’s literature, David Farr and Seth Lochhead’s screenplay has a rite of passage plot in which an adolescent has to take violent measures to transition into a self-sufficient adult. Obstructing this bridge is a reptilian intelligence officer (Cate Blanchett) who murdered the mother of the child.
After the “uberteen” is captured and escapes, what looks as if it’s going to be a chase movie veers seamlessly into a “fish out of water” plot where Hanna finds herself adjusting to unfamiliar situations like the romantic advances of boys, suburban family life and the simple pleasure of hearing music for the first time.
There were scenes when I felt that Ronan (ATONEMENT) came off as overly emotional for someone described as a cold-blooded ruthless killer. But vulnerable as she was in THE LOVELY BONES (2009), Ronan is totally believable here as a walking lethal weapon.
Fulfilling the metaphorical evil stepmother role, Blanchett (THE AVIATOR) makes a terrific villain. A climactic rendezvous in Berlin leaves more questions than answers. However, The Chemical Brothers’ original techno-music along with Paul Tothill’s jump-edits contributes to the energetic feel this film requires. Alwin Ruchler’s weird camera angles effectively reflect the character’s reaction to strange surroundings while Sarah Greenwood’s production and set design are as varied and as highly imaginative as this movie.
CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
EXCELLENT MOVIES DIRECTED BY THE LATE SIDNEY LUMET (1924-2011): TWELVE ANGRY MEN (1957)*, LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (1962), FAIL-SAFE (1964), THE PAWNBROKER (1965), THE HILL (1965), THE GROUP (1966), THE ANDERSON TAPES (1971), SERPICO (1973), MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974), DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)*, NETWORK (1976)*, PRINCE OF THE CITY (1981), THE VERDICT (1982)*, DANIEL (1983), RUNNING ON EMPTY (1988), FIND ME GUILTY (2006)
* Academy Award nomination for Best Director