Teenage kicks

Anybody know how to pronounce “Saoirse”?

Anybody know how to pronounce “Saoirse”?

Rated 4.0

There’s a new feral teen psychopath on the silver screen, and her name is Hanna. Played in an extraordinary performance by the remarkable Saoirse Ronan, Hanna is the best action thriller put to screen so far this year.

Calling Hanna a psychopath might be a little harsh. Raised by her former CIA daddy (Eric Bana) in the frozen tundra and taught to kick ass with the might of 10 men, she’s only doing what she was told to do. And when she gets old enough, she sets out on a journey to take out another CIA agent (the deliciously repellent Cate Blanchett).

Joe Wright directs the film, and he’s a long way from the relative comfort and serene drama of his Atonement, which also starred Ronan, and Pride & Prejudice. He shows that he knows his way around a good fight scene, of which the film has plenty. It’s also to the viewer’s advantage that Wright does good drama, because Hanna has its share of quieter moments and taut emotional scenes. It’s a well-rounded movie.

The film’s early scenes are a nice setup for the carnage to come. Hanna, a wild, tattered blonde doesn’t have the standard teen arguments with her dad. Their fights involve him doing sneak attacks in the snowy wilderness, or drawing a gun on her as she sleeps. When Hanna not only holds her own in their little battles, but actually starts getting the best of him, it’s clear that she is ready for the next stage in her development.

The film then morphs into a wonderfully strange coming-of-age chase movie. Hanna makes her way into the modern world, where she sees electricity and fluorescent lights for the first time, and makes friends with Sophie (Jessica Barden), a girl her age. When the two go out on a double date that ends in a sleepover, it winds up being the film’s sweetest moment.

Hanna’s meetings with other friendly humans are but short stops along the way to the movie’s true business, a showdown between Hanna and Blanchett’s evildoer. God bless Blanchett for her willingness to portray such hateful, awful human beings. She gives this film one of the best villains since Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Ronan, who brings a certain grace to every movie she’s in, shows that the role of action heroine is right in her wheelhouse. Whether she’s tasting an exotic food for the first time or getting her first look at a desert landscape, Hanna is at once believably naive and brilliant. Her papa might not have had a DVD player, but he did teach his daughter Arabic and Japanese.

Providing a soundtrack that will surely rank among the year’s best, The Chemical Brothers are as big a star in this film as Ronan and Bana. They provide beats and sounds that get the heart racing alongside the sight of Ronan running, leaping and punching her way out of jams. Many music enthusiasts will leave Hanna and download the soundtrack upon arriving home.

As the mysterious daddy, Bana is convincing as a soft-spoken, gentle man who could more than likely remove your trachea with half a pencil in 2.5 seconds. Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng are terrific as Sophie’s bohemian parents who are more than a little curious about the mysterious Hanna’s background. Tom Hollander steals scenes as a happily whistling, murderous man hired by Blanchett to do the things her agency won’t allow her to do.

I hope Hanna is a setup for a franchise. I would like to see more films of Ronan beating the living shit out of bad guys. All the dumbasses populating crap like The Expendables ain’t got nothing on her.