Hanna

Once upon a time, a widowed father (Eric Bana) kept his feral daughter, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), in a remote Finland shell, teaching her to hunt, fight and kill like an assassin. Social skills, not so much. Now, at 16, Hanna is pushed into the real world and the dangers of wicked witch Marissa (Cate Blanchett, superb), a CIA agent who shares dark secrets with Hanna's dad.

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And so begins a fairy tale of lightning speed, gritty action and shocking gravity, all driven by the electronic beat of a hypnotic score by the Chemical Brothers. The gifted Brit director Joe Wright excels at knocking you off balance and forcing you to rearrange his puzzle pieces in your head. Out of a script by David Farr and Seth Lochhead, Wright (his Atonement won an Oscar nod for Ronan) carves a surreal fable of blood and regret. Ronan is an acting sorceress, and her scenes with the excellent Bana cut bone-deep. As Hanna is pursued across Europe, hoping to reunite with her father in Berlin, we watch her in the act of inventing herself. A funny, too-brief encounter with an English family on holiday lets Hanna talk boys with their daughter (sass queen Jessica Barden) and almost annihilate one lad who dares to make a move. But as Hanna confronts her past, the movie becomes like nothing you've ever seen. I'd call it a knockout.

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From The Archives Issue 1128: April 14, 2011