Who's In It: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Tom Hollander, Jessica Barden
The Basics: She's a teen assassin. And she got that way because her dad raised her in a cabin somewhere up in northern Finland and trained her in unstoppable kill techniques all day, every day in between field trips to go reindeer hunting all Ted Nugent-style. Then one day he takes out the freaky electronic box with the red button on it and says, "Okay go ahead and push the button and the bad guys will know where we are and they'll come try to kill us. Go ahead, push the button." So she does. What happens next is a non-stop action ninja fairy tale with Eurotrash murderers, skinheads on motorcycles, teen girl confusion mixed with ultraviolence, creepy abandoned amusement parks, stupid hippie tourists, lots of neck-snapping and Cate Blanchett killing it as the evil "stepmother"/frozen-hearted special ops bureaucrat in green suede Prada pumps with sensible heels.
What's The Deal: Like most fairy tales, this one has an unforgiving moralistic streak, especially where its female characters are concerned. They live and die, always violently, and their fates are often tied to their relationship to the rules of warm family life. But if you decide you don't care about that sub-layer of meaning you'll still be rewarded with a fast-paced action thriller where standard operating procedure doesn't seem to apply. The filmmaking is precise, controlled, stylish and comes with the best bonus feature of all: the excitement of not knowing what's going to happen next, especially since the title character doesn't know either (they save most of her identity revelations for the final act's final sequence).
For: Fans of Kill Bill, Run Lola Run and for people who liked the idea of Kick-Ass's Hit Girl but who felt uncomfortable with the way that she reveled in her own murderous nature. Think of this kid as that character grown up a little more but stripped of cocky swagger, profane jokes and flying abilities, then steeped in pubescent angst, nagging questions about her upbringing and a serious lack of dating skills.
From The Man Who Brought You: Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley one) and Atonement. No joke. It makes you wonder how much the marketing people will use that hook to promote it, who might go see it based on their enjoyment of those earlier period pieces and how soon they'll run screaming from the theater (I'm guessing the minute Ronan lays waste to her first batch of humans. It makes me want to go see it again some Sunday afternoon just so I can sit in the back and count the angry walk-outs.)
Next Time: What if Saoirse Ronan made a comedy? What would that even look like? I'm just curious.