The movie world is rife with virtually indestructible heroes like James Bond, John Rambo, Jason Bourne, Martin Riggs, John McClain, and Indiana Jones. All of these guys are serious ass-kickers, but if I were going somewhere very dangerous and could pick one person as a bodyguard, it would be none of these. Think about it. Whom would you choose?
My choice is a no brainer. Her name is Beatrix Kiddo, aka the Bride, aka Black Mamba. Anyone who can slice and dice a roomful of sword-wielding ninjas and fight her way out of a buried coffin, gets my vote as the greatest movie hero of all time in a heartbeat. And while her name at the top of my list of heroes is quite secure, I discovered over the weekend someone who someday may be in the same league with her.
Who is this pretender to the hero throne? Her name is Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) (Great name by the way!), and although she only 16 years old, she is one extremely tough cookie, and she is the main character in a highly entertaining action-packed film aptly titled “Hanna.” When we first meet Hanna, she is living with her father Erik (Eric Bana) in a rustic woodland cabin located somewhere in northern Finland.
Hanna’s father has taught her to hunt and fight, and he is constantly testing her skills by attacking her at unsuspecting moments. At first we wonder what the hell is going on, but as the film continues, we gradually learn that Erik had been an agent for the CIA before his wife died, and now apparently he has fallen out favor with the agency, and he realizes that someone will be coming after Hanna and him, and so he passes on all his self-defense skills to his daughter so that she can defend herself adequately when the time arrives.
Without revealing too much, let’s just say that Hanna and her father are forced to separate in order to survive, and Hanna ultimately is captured by agents under the command of a ruthlessly vindictive agent named Marissa (Cate Blancheett), who harbors a personal vendetta against Erik and his daughter. Hanna is incarcerated underneath the Moroccan desert, but she manages to escape, and sets out for Berlin, where she is supposed reunite with her father.
The road to Berlin is not an easy one, however, because Marissa is relentless in her pursuit of Hanna, who must use everything her father taught her in order to stay one step ahead of the evil agent. From the time Hanna and her father split up, the film evolves into a giant chase, and it is one filled with plenty of action, suspense, and some terrific fight scenes.
Although Hollywood churns out a veritable plethora of action movies each year, this one is unique because the key character is a 16-year-old girl with sufficient martial arts skills to defeat adults. Ronan, who earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Susie Salmon in “The Lovely Bones,” is wonderful as Hanna, and she has the poise of a veteran in front of the camera. In the film’s production notes, the gifted young actress explained what she liked about her character.
“I want all the roles that I play to hold challenges. With lots of action and a layered character, ‘Hanna’ had them for me. It’s unlike any other drama that I’ve done. Here is a teenager who has been raised in a forest and has gotten all her education from her father; she’s never even met anyone else before. We meet her as she goes out on her own, and when she does, she is fascinated by everyone and everything she comes across. My favorite quality of hers is that she is non-judgmental; she shows an open mind to, and a fascination with, everything. She’s a bit of a freak. But, I like that; I like freaks.”
The incredibly talented Blanchett, who has five Oscar nominations and one win to her credit is typically superb the role of the sinister Marissa. One of the film’s main weaknesses is that it leaves some questions about the exact relationship between Erik and Marissa, but Blanchett helped explain this in the production notes.
“Marissa worked undercover in Germany in the 1990s, and relished the cut-and-thrust of covert operations. The one she was involved with Erik in failed and was closed down, so she harbors incredible resentment towards the agency about the whole thing as well as self- loathing. When Erik and Hanna reappear, she goes back into the field to close them down. Finding Hanna starts out as a professional necessity, but becomes pathological, for her. She wants to possess this child; it’s a bit like the Wicked Witch from the Hansel and Gretel story. The fairy tale elements add a heightened quality to the scenes.”
Despite a lack of clarity and continuity in places, “Hanna” is an excellent action movie featuring fine performances from both Ronan and Blanchett. (Bana also is good, but he isn’t in the film as much as the other two are.) “Hanna” (Let’s give it an 8.) has all the makings of a good movie series, and it will be interesting to see whether or not Ronan reprises her role as precocious teen-aged assassin anytime in the near future.
Who knows? Someday Hanna my find herself face to face with Beatrix Kiddo. Although I would still put my money on Kiddo, I don’t doubt that the kid would give her a hell of a fight.