Saoirse Ronan is the name at the top of the poster for the 2011 film Hanna. And rightly so. Getting your name ahead of someone like Cate Blanchett on the billing food chain is impressive. And still amazingly seldom for a women. A child. Recent across-the-board successes like Brooklyn and Lady Bird could so easily be assumed to be made for the actress. Vehicles to specifically drive a movie star. Heavily hinted at in an unforgettable supporting role in Atonement, a remarkable breakthrough at the age of 12. And that’s three Oscar nominations for Saoirse Ronan in those latter films if you’re counting.
The Irish actress, who has been a household name for some time now, has just turned 24 years old. Yes, I just spat my coffee out. The film Hanna, directed by Joe Wright who made Atonement, might be Ronan’s most under-appreciated film, and could well be her most under-rated performance. And that’s saying something given her career thus far.
Hanna is a frenetic, snappy, relentless motion picture experience. One which put the edge-of-seventeen year old actress through her paces – freezing climate, chases on foot, various on-location settings, working with minor CGI add-ons, utilizing new accents and language, actions sequences that would have the fittest stunt double panting. Saoirse Ronan’s Hanna though demonstrates a magnetic acting turn, perhaps her best (though the should-have-won-the-Oscar Atonement role is tough to beat). Donning a kind of cave-woman-meets-super-human persona thrown into the den of wolves also known as everyday humanity. Survival and acclimatizing are on the menu for Hanna, the actress is made to look pastey, drained of color in her face and a kind of blonde hair that almost makes her a beacon.
Ronan’s own coming-of-age so to speak plays a valuable part here too. The innocence and youth of her face and the developing inquisitiveness and wisdom in her eyes. Hanna is, of course, adapting to the world around her too. The actress gives the heroine a kind of serene presence, but that knowing, alert-for-danger glint in her eye is never far away. The natural emotions of the forgotten girl seep through as she interacts with the other characters. Especially the brash Sophie who is roughly her age, and invites Hanna into the fun and frolics of the teenage life on vacation.
It’s a fascinating character development, accomplished with great poise and maturity by Ronan. An actress who uses every muscle, eye movement, subtle emotive expression, to make Hanna, a secluded soul, a convincing member of society. And we support her plight, fear for her demise, and long for a kind of cathartic vengeance that Hanna, and father (Eric Bana) can execute after the death of her mother (Vicky Krieps no less) many moons ago.
Exhilarating, tense, yet warm, empathetic, Saoirse Ronan’s portrayal of Hanna might just be my favorite. And I am sure I am not alone. Easy to say back in 2011 that this girl has real potential, given her illustrious, natural talent. But a star was already born, and has since clearly proven her appeal and ability in the film world even further. With characters expanding an Irish immigrant in America, a conflicted vampire, a boisterous daughter.
Now 24, Saoirse Ronan can retire from acting in the safe knowledge of a prosperous career come good. Having reached her full potential. Time to go into hiding. Right?