Movie reviews

THE ongoing fascination with lethal girls continues apace in Hanna (15A) in which Saoirse Ronan plays the eponymous heroine, a teenager raised in the wilds of Finland to become a ruthless assassin by her father, ex-black ops veteran Erik (Eric Bana).

Determined to live a normal life, Hanna leaves the sanctuary her father has created, in the process triggering a worldwide hunt led by Marissa (Cate Blanchett), Eric’s former handler. The trans-Europe pursuit that follows is two parts action thriller to one part coming-of-age drama, as Hanna discovers a normal teenage girl’s passions of boys, clothes and make-up, all the while fleeing Marissa and yet moving ever closer to a climactic showdown.

Ronan is excellently cast in the lead, purveying a compelling blend of dead-eyed innocence, but Joe Wright’s film requires her to negotiate implausible scenes that would be a test for an actress twice her age. The whole set-up of the vengeful relationship between Marissa and Erik smacks of a contrivance hacked together simply to put lethal weapons in a young woman’s hands, and while the action sequences are expertly edited, they lack the conviction that might persuade us that Hanna is the consummate killer the story needs us to believe her to be. If you’re prepared to overlook the plot-holes this is solid but unspectacular entertainment.

SET in a circus during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Water for Elephants (12A) aims to give teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson a more adult role than that of the Twilight movies that made him famous. Here he plays Jacob, a heartbroken veterinary student taken in by August (Christoph Waltz), ringleader and circus owner, when he discovers that Jacob has studied at an Ivy League college. Charged with taking care of the show’s star attraction, Rosie the elephant, Jacob finds himself falling for the boss’s wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), a very dangerous thing to do when August is a violent sociopath. Ostensibly a romantic drama, this adaptation of Sara Gruen’s novel has a resonant subtext of violence against women, although the makers hardly intended for the relationship between Jacob and Rosie to become the most poignant one of the movie. The illicit romance between Pattinson and Witherspoon, meanwhile, lacks a persuasive chemistry. Strong on period detail, and touching when it deals with the violence visited on the long-suffering Rosie, Water for Elephants is a lacklustre account of an insipid affair.

AN unexplained catastrophe provides the backdrop to One Hundred Mornings (15A) in which two couples find themselves marooned in a cottage on the outskirts of a remote Irish village when a major disaster — complete economic meltdown, perhaps? — leaves the country without power, food, water and communications. Infidelity and betrayal gives the story its impetus, as Jonathan (Ciarán McMenamin) carries on an affair with Katie (Kelly Campbell) under the noses of their respective partners, Hannah (Alex Reid) and Mark (Rory Keenan), but the real fascination is in watching the perverse dynamic that evolves as hope and optimism give way to despair and fatalism. Writer-director Conor Horgan has created a compulsively believable scenario that verges on dystopian sci-fi, although the film succeeds by underplaying the potential for hysterical desperation we might expect, instead allowing the characters an entirely grim but realistic acceptance of their circumstances. A very strong addition to what is turning out to be a very good year for Irish cinema.

A DOCUMENTARY on the Irish Dancing World Championships is an unlikely contender for the feelgood movie of the week, but even the most cynical anti-Riverdance curmudgeon will tap a toe along with Jig (PG). Director Sue Bourne follows a slew of potential world champions during the build-up to last year’s championships in Glasgow, gradually building a narrative that climaxes with the various contestants giving their all onstage. Jig is a charming tale of innocent obsession.

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