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Kitty can scratch

There’s a lot to love in Joe Wright’s viscerally emotive “Hanna.”
Hanna looks toward the kill
Image by Focus Features
Hanna looks toward the kill



STARRING: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett


SHOWING: Area theaters

Joe WrightâÄôs assassin flick âÄúHannaâÄù is a small film. Even with its expressionistic bells and whistles and euro-trotting landscape, Wright tracks his titular juvenile femme fatale, played by an enchantingly conflicted Saoirse Ronan, through a remarkably minimal approach.

At the foreground are the characters and the performances. It is a treatment that has allowed Wright to transcend the well-worn territory of the politically vague espionage thriller from its stark opening to its cyclical closer.

He isnâÄôt, however, laying any new ground in regards to his narrative. The superhuman HannaâÄôs cat-and-mouse game against the filmâÄôs indistinct government agent, Marissa Weigler, played full of hate and allure by a southern-fried Cate Blanchett, is one full of unanswered questions.

David FarrâÄôs script is one that clearly strives for a certain brand of subtle eloquence in the dialogue, and each actor succeeds in teasing out the poignancy. Still, it is not a tale wrought with intrigue. Rather, it is a film best viewed through character interaction and the visual serenity that rises from the worldly experiences of initially stoic Hanna, whoâÄôs father (carried by the rugged gentility of Eric Bana) has long kept her sparring away in the Finland forests.

WrightâÄôs rise as a filmmaker came through period works like the 2008 war drama, âÄúAtonement,âÄù so it is no throwaway descriptor to view âÄúHannaâÄù as an art house film. There is something noticeably new wave in the intimate and grounded attention to detail within the living spaces of these characters, from the cozy firelit walls of Eric BanaâÄôs recluse cabin to the homey abode of HannaâÄôs biological grandmother. While the details may flounder, the character work thrives in their closely shot conversations.

Wright still frames the action around a unique brand of dizzying urbane scenery. His level of expressionism at the hands of HannaâÄôs experience goes overboard at times (BlanchettâÄôs character works in an illogically constructed and poorly secured cement fortress), but RonanâÄôs pixie assassin kicks and kills with eye-catching style and harshness that move this film past the PG-13 rating.

At its heart, WrightâÄôs film succeeds through HannaâÄôs simple interactions with a world she has never seen. Ronan, who received a supporting actress nomination for her work in WrightâÄôs âÄúAtonement,âÄù carries the role with a loveable naivety, and it is this characteristic that allows her experiences to dance between realms of bliss and sadness.

Her interactions with a British family of vacationing bohemians offers her character the greatest level of pathos through the lens of her affable new friend, the filmâÄôs prototypical tween, Sophie.

Wright may not succeed entirely in the genreâÄôs inevitable balancing act âÄî one that inherently demands a tight plot, character development and excessive eye candy. Still, it is forgivable to see a filmmaker cut corners of plot precision in favor of character flourishes.

While it may never be entirely clear why it is so important that Wiegler and Hanna seek out the otherâÄôs demise, it remains consistently enthralling to watch the dynamic protagonist venture out from her frontier homeland and isolated upbringing to a world full of love and hate.

Three out of four stars

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