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Originally published Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'Hanna': A feral teen with secret-agent tendencies

In "Hanna," Saoirse Ronan plays a feral child raised by a former CIA agent in director Joe Wright's apparent attempt to create an action-movie franchise around a teenage girl.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Hanna': with Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana. Directed by Joe Wright, from a script by Seth Lockheed and David Farr. PG-13: intense violent scenes, some sexual material and action. In Arabic, German, Spanish and English, with English subtitles. 111 minutes. Several theaters.

"Hanna" begins with the 16-year-old title character shooting and dressing a deer in frozen Finland. Not many minutes later, she's being pursued by the CIA, which follows her to Morocco, Germany and other scenic destinations.

This spooky feral child is protected by a secretive ex-agent (Eric Bana) who keeps her on the alert even while she's sleeping. Like Inspector Clouseau and his karate-happy assistant, Cato, she's developed hands that can turn into lethal weapons.

No, this is not an attempt to revive the 1960s action-movie franchise — though sometimes it feels like that's exactly what director Joe Wright had in mind.

The movie stars Saoirse Ronan, the Oscar-nominated star of Wright's "Atonement," who turns the restless Hanna into a volatile mixture of adolescent angst and homicidal secret-agent impulses.

She's especially engaging in the early scenes with her father, who has trained her since childhood, relying largely on fairy tales and an encyclopedia as the basis for home-schooling.

The chief danger to their existence is a monstrous intelligence operative, played by Cate Blanchett as a delirious witch. Among her recruits is an almost unrecognizable Tom Hollander, who plays each plot-stalling scene as a campy exercise. Much more fun is Hanna's smart sidekick, played by the scene-stealing Jessica Barden.

At its worst, "Hanna" seems to have been inspired by such self-conscious 1960s misfires as "Modesty Blaise" and "Operation Kid Brother."

Wright uses slow motion and a pounding rendition of "The Hall of the Mountain King" to liven things up, but it's only when Ronan takes over that the film discovers a still, focused center.

John Hartl:

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