Joe Wright's "Hanna" is a thriller that's stunning to watch, efficient, brutal and cold just like the story's 16-year-old title character.
Hanna, played by Saoirse Ronan, is introduced wearing animal skins and a determined pale-eyed gaze. She's hunting an elk in a snowy forest and downs the beast with a single arrow. While she is field-dressing her kill, a man's voice declares, "You're dead I've killed you." The man is her father, Erik (Eric Bana), who has trained her in the Finnish woods to fight, hunt and kill as well as imparting every fact in the encyclopedia.
What's soon revealed, in droplets of information, is that Erik is a former spy who took Hanna underground as a baby to keep her from a smooth and deadly CIA operative, Marisa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett). When Hanna decides it's time to see the wider world, Erik digs up a long-forgotten transmitter, which Hanna uses to signal Wiegler to fetch her. Hanna ends up in a remote holding facility, but it's not long before she escapes nonchalantly killing several agents and guards en route into the Moroccan desert.
At this point, Wright (who directed Ronan's Oscar-nominated performance in "Atonement") sets up an elaborate chase. While Wiegler pursues Erik through Europe, she sends a ruthless contract killer (Tom Hollander) to trail Hanna as she hitchhikes with a vacationing British family (the parents are played by Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams) to reunite with Erik at a Berlin rendezvous point.
The movie boast some hellacious action sequences, the best of them a single tracking shot of Erik calmly dispatching four agents in a Berlin subway station. The violence is swift and surprising, stretching the boundaries of what a PG-13 rating should allow. And the action is propelled by a pulsating score by the electronica duo The Chemical Brothers.
Ronan, with her porcelain skin and freakishly pale blue eyes, exudes an eerie calm as she moves from smoothly robotic killer to wide-eyed innocent the latter coming out when she meets the vacationing Brits' teen daughter (Jessica Barden, from "Tamara Drewe"). Ronan is deftly matched by Blanchett, who casually kills and buries her lethal past while pursuing Hanna and Erik.
The only missing ingredient in "Hanna" is an emotional core. Wright moves the story so forcefully, jumping across North African and European locales as The Chemical Brothers' score pounds and buzzes, that there's little time for cheer. "Hanna" remains a cool movie, never a warm one.
A mysterious teen is put on a murderous chase in this chilling and energetic thriller.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Friday, April 8.
Rating • PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.
Running time • 110 minutes.