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CIA Skill Set 

Wanted: Bright, ambitious teenager. Must be willing to kill people.

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Waif-like, scraggly haired, pale-blue-eyed Hanna grew up in a cabin in the wilds of Finland. Her single dad, Erik, taught her important things: how to hunt with a bow and arrow; how to fire a gun; how to use her feet and fists; and how to speak English, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese. Odd, though, that she knows nothing about music ... or people.

Her simple statement — “Papa, I’m ready” — kick-starts this action-packed, tightly written, magnificently directed tale of family, spies, friendship, survival, and people constantly on the run.

Fifteen-year-old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) realizes that she has special talents but isn’t exactly sure what they are. Steelynerved, tightly wound, well-coifed CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), however, knows exactly what’s special about Hanna. With some other top agents, Wiegler is out to get both Hanna and her dad (Eric Bana).

There are lots of questions about these folks, and plenty of answers. But the script doesn’t give them up easily. Director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) throws in stylized, almost wordless flashbacks with a few hints about how some of his major characters are linked. Then he introduces more and more offbeat ones — Wiegler brings in a malevolent, constantly whistling blond fellow named Isaacs (Tom Hollander) to “do things that my agency won’t let me do.”

And Wright gives us an out-and-out thriller, filled with blazing guns, flinch-inducing stunts, crazy camera work, and a pounding, percussive soundtrack, courtesy of the Chemical Brothers. He also continues to show his prowess in perfecting long, single tracking shots. This time, he has one camera follow Erik, in Berlin, realizing he’s being tailed, then partaking in a lengthy ballet of a fistfight with opponents coming from all angles. It’s an absolutely breathtaking chunk of the film.

Some viewers will argue that the bookend conclusion is a little too neat. But most will really dig that, for a couple of hours, Hanna succeeds brilliantly and entertainingly at slapping us upside the head.


A CHAT WITH SAOIRSE RONAN

Irish actress Saoirse Ronan first worked with director Joe Wright in Atonement (2007). She went on to star in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and will soon be seen in Violet & Daisy (about two teenage assassins) — and then, for a December 2012 release, she’ll work with Jackson again as Itaril in The Hobbit: Part 1.

The Inlander: How do you pronounce your name? Ronan: “SEAR-shuh” is how Irish people pronounce it, but I pronounce it “SIR-shuh,” like “inertia.” It’s got a beautiful meaning — it’s Irish for “freedom.” I recently found out that my middle name, Una, means “unity” in Ireland. And I think my last name means “seal.” So I’m a free, unified seal [laughs].

What drew you to such an intense role? I like characters who interest me, who I’m thinking about for ages and ages after I’ve finished the script — usually ones who are different from me in some way, or maybe a piece of me that I haven’t brought out yet and I want to explore a little bit.

What kind of training did you do for Hanna? I trained for a couple of months before we started shooting. I did a couple of weeks in L.A. to get started so the head stunt coordinator would know what I was capable of. Then a member of his team and I went back to Ireland, and we would train in the gym for about two hours a day. We trained in martial arts and stick fighting and weapons training.

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