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  • Hanna
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210 of 235 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2011
What a terrific movie. A really likeable central character, whose coming-of-age journey is paralleled by a manhunt across Europe (where she is being hunted), during which she starts to learn more about the world and comes to reject violence. But that's not to say that the action scenes aren't thrilling stuff, and really enhanced by the wonderful score from the Chemical Brothers, which fits every scene in the movie where it's used (a lot of the time there's no background music, but when there is, it really adds to it) like a glove. Superb cinematography and beautiful directorial touches add what it takes to make the movie more than a clever thriller and elevate it to the status of art.

Be warned that not all of the plot is spelled out for you like in a typical Hollywood flick, so if you're not used to paying attention to subtlety, you might feel lost in the plot. If that happens, forget the plot and you'll still enjoy the movie for all of the above reasons.

No movie, however brilliant, will be treasured unless we feel we can make an emotional connection to the characters. Fortunately, Hanna won't disappoint there. We identify with Hanna and root for her, sympathise with Eric; we feel at home with the English tourist family, we hate Marissa with childlike passion, and Isaacs is all of our dark repulsions and fears covered by the thinnest social veneer. Even the old clown reminds us of some old uncle, even for those of us who never had uncles...

Wish I could give it 7 stars out of 5, but I'll just have to settle for actually watching it again.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2011
Hanna is a 2011 action film directed by Joe Wright, (Atonement, The Soloist), and stars Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett. In a nutshell, it's the story of a teenage girl named Hanna who has been raised by her father in a Finland forest. He has kept her completely severed from society and technology while raising her to be an assassin. The film follows her submergence into our world once she goes to task.

I read some of the negative reviews of this film before pulling the trigger and they actually pushed me towards the purchase. Most of the bleating came from people advising me that the first thirty minutes housed the only scenes of real value and that the film went flaccid for the next hour. That was exciting to me because I'm tired of watching car chases recycle themselves for hours on end while a soundtrack made up entirely of rapidly escalating explosions pounds like blistering techno until robots and/or trite superheroes show up and throw flaming meteorites at the scorched earth to attack/defend the human race. I'm just tired of that stuff.

But I still want action, and I got it. In proper dosage, even. The fight scenes choreographed for this film were presented at a heightened, but still reasonable human level and I appreciate that. The director clearly wanted to keep the film on a more realistic track for its duration and there's some beauty in that. The results were invigorating to me because I stayed connected which is a huge deal. It was well done.

That being said, the other elements in this film were also executed splendidly. And yes, the movie does slow down, but not in a bad way. A story develops, characters are introduced, and yes, I can live without gunfire for awhile while this all goes down. I just don't see the problem.

(Especially with the Chemical Brothers orchestrating the soundtrack?! SCORE.)

I think the only problem I had with the film was listening to Cate Blanchett with a southern accent. Something just didn't feel right there. Aside from that, however, the acting was stellar.

In the end, I think I dug the movie because there's zero cheese. None.

And I need no cheese.

- t
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99 of 122 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2011
From the amazing acting of the vilianess Cate Blanchett to the 'Wristcutter's reminiscent whistling tune of Tom Hollander to the wonderful direction of Joe Wright- this film is a masterpiece. Then final moments- how the movie is brought full circle will leave you astounded, inspired, and feeling as if there is so much this world has to offer. This is the best movie I've seen all year. I would recommend it to anyone who would consider them self a stylistic, well rounded person. If you tend to like stylish indie flicks such as 'The Life Aquatic', 'Wristcutters', and 'Scott Pilgrim', you'll greatly enjoy and appreciate this film. If you're hesitant to buy this film because, like me, you aren't a fan of younger characters, buy it anyways. Saoirse Ronan has earned an Academy Award, as well as a Golden Globe to prove that she has what it takes to hold her own against the amazing talents of actors Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. The latter should have won some sort of award for this. She's an excellent villain.
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70 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2011
It's rare to see beautiful filmography in an action movie. And though it may be disingenuous to call this an action movie, it absolutely has the underpinnings of one and also has amazing visual artistic qualities.

The story itself is going to polarize audiences. There will be two types of viewers: The type that sees an odd action movie and the type that sees a philosophical statement on life. Either audience is going to see the action and novelty aspects, but, as a member of the second group, the movie touches on some very relatable, tender points regarding the early stages of life and coming of age.

The entire movie is wrapped around the vague notion of Grimm's fairy tales and though it doesn't attempt to draw any direct metaphors, they certainly allude to them along the way.

This is the first movie in almost 10 years that I've intentionally watched multiple times in the theatre. It's an experience and it's as enjoyable the second time as the first.

Highly recommended.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4 1/2 Stars

I liked this film. I liked it a lot.

Come to think of it, I like all of director Joe Wright's films. Each seems to be crafted by someone who is truly in love with the art of filmmaking. This would seem like a prerequisite for any film, but sadly, I don't believe it is. Beginning with his version of "Pride and Prejudice" in 2005, through "Atonement", "The Soloist" and now "Hanna", he brings a unique sensibility to each, giving each film a different look, a different feel and a different style. While he makes each film unique, he also uses enough of the genre or theme to make it recognizable, allowing our vision of these stories to expand along with him. I mean, it would be pretty silly to watch a version of "Pride" that doesn't at least acknowledge the source material by Jane Austen. But Wright is smart enough to realize he can only push the envelope so far and shows some restraint.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement") has been raised in the forest by her father, Erik (Eric Bana). They spend their days and nights together in a small cabin living about as far off the grid as humanly possible. Erik spends his time training Hanna to survive; they engage in elaborate fights, hunt, learn to survive in the tundra, teaching Hanna to become strong, to fight against the best of them. Her skill set is amazing, wide and varied, but as a sixteen-year-old teenage girl, she begins to miss something in her life. As she asks questions, Erik begins to realize what she wants. One day, he digs up a small beacon he buried long ago and brings it back to the cabin. If Hanna really wants to see the real world, all she has to do is turn the beacon on. As soon as she does this, Marissa Vigler (Cate Blanchett), a CIA operative, will begin to hunt them. A couple of days later, Erik returns from a hunt to find the beacon blinking. They make arrangements to meet in Berlin and he is off. Hanna waits and soon, a helicopter arrives. She puts up token resistance and soon finds herself in a strange holding facility. She asks to speak with Marissa Vigler and all hell breaks loose.

An interesting thing to note about this film is that the screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr (who wrote some episodes of the British TV series "MI: 5") was listed on both the 2006 and 2009 Blacklist, an annual list of the best-unproduced screenplays circulating in Hollywood. It is kind of easy to see why this screenplay was not immediately snapped up and produced. "Hanna" is a character-driven action film. Most action films are story-driven and directors embrace this because it gives them an excuse to blow up buildings and to choreograph elaborate action sequences. In "Hanna", the characters are the heart of the story, and we spend a lot of time with them, learning about them, watching them navigate this world. There are some terrific action set-pieces, but they aren't the main focus of the film. In fact, in a couple of these, the director seems to believe they aren't important to the characters and we watch only the aftermath of the fight before it. We'll return to this later. But I feel like story-driven action films are more popular, more acceptable for most filmmakers because they don't have to spend too much time on character development, they can concentrate their energy on elaborate explosions, kick-ass car chases and fancy fights.

Joe Wright deserves a lot of credit for recognizing how well-written and how unique this story is and for sticking to the strange and unusual aspect of the screenplay.

There are a lot of unusual touches to the visuals of this story. From the very beginning, when we first join Hanna and Erik in the snow-bound forest, everything appears almost monochromatic. They are living in a world blanketed with white and the wood and animal skins surrounding them provide dark, vibrant slashes of black and gray. Both Hanna and Erik are very pale, their wild hair frequently covered with snow. Even after Hanna is captured and taken to the holding facility, the images remain monochromatic. But now, everything is very gray (lots of concrete and metal) and orange (the surrounding desert and her prison garb, for lack of a better word). As the story moves to Morocco, then France, then Berlin, Hanna seems to find herself in dirty, unkempt areas. Especially when she gets to Berlin, the area she populates seems uncared for, nothing has been painted in a many years and seems faded of all vitality. It is an easier place to go unnoticed. This also helps to carry on with the washed out, monochromatic feel of the film.

When Hanna is held in the unknown facility, it appears like it was originally constructed in the 70s, lots of curves and circular shapes, everything appears a little grimy. This gives us the message she is in a facility that hasn't been used in a while, and now seems to be dusting off the cobwebs. When she eventually escapes, Wright embraces the nature of the facility and really throws us into a different kind of action film. He creates a montage of incredibly brief shots and very quick editing to give us more of a feel of her escape. This sequence seems to pay homage to films of the 70s, borrowing the same sort of editing aesthetic Kubrik, Friedkin and Yates might have used. Lots of brief shots, lots of close-ups of shapes and images, blurry transitions, shots turning and twisting. In a way, this aesthetic also helps us remember that Hanna is new to this world and everything must seem strange and new to her.

Because Wright is more interested in the characters, he spends a lot of time with Hanna and Erik, establishing who they are, what makes them interesting. There are moments of violence, of fighting, but these seem abbreviated somehow. As mentioned before, in many instances, we witness the aftermath of a fight or a violent episode. This does two things. First, it allows our mind to fill in the details of what happened just before. Generally, our minds will fill in more graphic details, more blood, so this is an effective technique to get us involved in the story. It is the same technique that makes a good horror film good. When we don't see everything in explicit detail, our mind fills in the blanks, making it scarier. Second, it reminds us the characters are king and in control of the story in this film.

When we do see the action, it is top notch. Hanna's escape from the holding facility is fast-paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Various fist fights are elaborately choreographed and interesting. A gun battle is very quick and leaves your heart racing.

But Wright is clearly more interested in character. After Hanna escapes the holding facility, she walks through the Moroccan desert and happens upon a British family traveling in an old caravan. Dad (Jason Flemyng) and Mom (Olivia Williams) are eager for their children, Sophie (Jessica Barden), a teenager trying to live beyond her years, and Miles (Aldo Maland), to live a rich life in the country, full of travel. When Hanna and Sophie meet, Sophie seems to consider this new, unusual friend a trophy and she wants her around for a while. This sequence of the film seems to diverge from the real story. Hanna basically lives with them for a while as they travel. And as this seems to go on forever, a realization happens. Hanna is learning how to be a, more of less, normal teenage girl from Sophie. It actually works and gives us a deeper feeling for Hanna.

Also, during this sequence, Wright continues to revisit Erik, Marissa and a strange German assassin played by Tom Hollander, keeping us grounded and making the sequence seem more integrated into Hanna and Erik's story.

Saoirse Ronan is really good as Hanna. She is mature beyond her years but also naïve and lacking in the life experiences most of us have in their first sixteen years. Because of this, Hanna is unsure of most of what she is experiencing as soon as she enters the real world. But she knows Marissa is out to get her, so with every challenge she adapts quickly and moves on.

Ronan shows us all of Hanna's vulnerabilities while demonstrating her unique skills. One moment, she may be staring wide-eyed at a television because it is the first one she has ever seen. The next, she is running through a maze of shipping containers trying to elude a trio of assassins. This duality runs throughout the film and helps us get a better picture of this very mature young lady who can kill people with her bare hands yet wonders what the world really holds for her.

Eric Bana is good as Erik. He is a strange fellow and we wonder for quite a while why he has brought his daughter to this small cabin in the woods, to raise her in such extreme isolation. There are a couple of flashbacks giving us the back-story to his character and his relationship with Marissa. A highly efficient killer, he has confidence in his daughter's ability to survive.

Blanchett plays Marissa Vigler, a CIA operative who is working for and towards her own agenda. As she tracks Hanna and Erik, we learn about their relationship and the reasons for her nearly psychotic determination. She really wants to get to Erik and Hanna and we get the sense that much of this is due to her personal relationship with them. She is holding a grudge or wants to clean up a mistake and will stop at nothing until she reaches her goals.

Blanchett is great. Using a sort of Southern twang, you never, ever feel Marissa relaxes. Yes, she smiles and tries to be personable, but there always seems to be a tightly wound rubber band underneath, ready to snap.

Wright quickly and efficiently convinces us of each character's determination to succeed, to beat their adversaries. This builds a lot of tension between the trio and helps to keep our attention riveted to the screen.

"Hanna" is a real treat. A character-driven action film filled with interesting, unusual performances and a hybrid visual style. I think Joe Wright has just been elevated to the short list of directors who make films I have to see on opening weekend.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2011
Any thriller or suspense about a 16-year-old girl assassin requires a considerable amount of suspension of disbelief. The task becomes even harder when the storyline is saddled with countless plot holes, incredible coincidences and impossible motives. Don't get me wrong. I know disregard to realistic possibility is not actually a bad thing, and I enjoyed such actions as "The Long Kiss Good Night." But in the case of "Hanna," things just went too far.

The film centers on a girl Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan), raised and home-schooled by her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) in the wilderness of Finland. Under Erik's tutelage Hanna has been training more than ten years to be a perfect killing machine. Hanna is growing up fast, getting more and more interested in the world outside, and one day Erik asks her to make a decision. She does it, and deadly battles with CIA operatives begin, while she meets people including a traveling family in the desert.

You can argue that "Hanna" is not really an action thriller, but a character-driven drama about the titular heroine like "La Femme Nikita." Some might find fairy-tale elements in some of the episodes and characters, and Cate Blanchett's wicked-witch like agent is one of them. To me, "Hanna" seems more like a pretentious effort from filmmakers who fail to realize the film's derivative premise, which is hardly covered by the showy camerawork (including the director Joe Wright's trademark long take), and the superficial treatment of dramatic and allegorical aspects.

I like Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett. I tried to like the film, but found it very hard to do so, when Hanna, easily frightened by television and electricity, drops in a shop, uses a computer and access the internet; when chasing agents commit stupid mistakes again and again; when, most importantly, secrets and twists (very slowly revealed) are nothing really original. The only thing I like about the film is the thumping score by The Chemical Brothers.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2011
What do you get when the director of Atonement, Pride and Prejudice (2007), and The Soloist directs an action movie? How about if La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element's Leeloo produced a love-child? Same answer for both: Hanna. And now for something completely different...

Both brutal and emotionally delicate, this fairy tale-driven movie follows a young, female, elven-looking Jason Bourne in her journey to defeat the wicked witch. Hanna tries to appeal to both art house critics and action movie connoisseurs, but succeeds considerably more in the ethereal former than the latter.

Hanna begins very slowly, but with no shortage of intrigue, as we are introduced to Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) and her father (Eric Bana) living in some subarctic wilderness. They make ends meet by living off the grid with zero human interaction and hunting for self-sufficiency. Like any father concerned for his early-teenage daughter, he randomly assaults her to test her developing martial prowess--for which she has a frightening facility. Near bedtime Hanna is drilled to answer questions in Spanish, Italian, problem. We later learn that she also speaks Japanese and Arabic. Just as we begin to question how this young girl could be so talented as a spy-in-training we meet her deficiency. She has had no human or world interaction. All of her knowledge outside of her ployglot tongue and combat grooming have been limited to a single-volume abridged encyclopedia.

Yearning to be introduced to the world, we discover that Hanna's training has been geared to assassinate a CIA agent (Cate Blanchett) formerly assigned to her case; assigned to terminate her, having already dispatched her mother. This plot element goes largely unexplained. So if you craft questions about it while watching the movie, they will go unanswered.

The movie has notably two different tones. One is reserved for the scenes in which we see Hanna interacting with the sights, sounds, and denizens of a world she only understood through her father's explanations as if they were fairytales. The majority of her character development is cued by a budding relationship with a posh British tween on her family vacation in Africa. She experiences friendship, acceptance, and a near-first kiss which results in a Spanish teen almost having his neck snapped (a very Leeloo-Fifth Element moment). Her awkward social encounters are humorous. When asked how her mother died by the British girl's mother, Hanna casually and informatively replies: "three bullets." While, at moments, this social experiment comes off as shocking, it also has its enchanting moments. As she experiences new, simple things such as hearing music or having the wind blow in her face riding aback a motorcycle, her haunting expressions remind me of the emotional journey taken by the young, deaf Japanese girl from Babel.

The other tone was strongly forecast by the trailer: Hanna is a stone-cold killer. Eric Bana brought his A-game Munich bad-assery to this movie and shared a heaping spoonful of kickass awesome with his co-star. There are several battles between Hanna and her father, as well as between each of them and various covert-types sent to kill them. In terms of camera work and film-editing, no effort is made for the viewer to enjoy the Bourne Identity¬¬-style fighting choreography. You "know" what kinds of moves are being executed, but you cannot really "see" it happen. Instead, every effort is made for the viewer to experience the abrupt, brutal, purposeful nature of these trained killers. Their techniques come off as effortless; instinctive. Also similar to the Bourne series is how much sprinting occurs in this movie, making for a very fight-or-flight-y experience.

Presented with many elements of fantasy--a young girl (sort of) imprisoned, naively interacting with the outside world, a "near first" kiss, revenge, a wicked witch, a fairy tale house, and various foreign locales--our more elf-than-human looking heroine strives to defeat her nemesis to have her revenge and gain her freedom. Her journey ends with an ending that doesn't feel like an ending. Rather it feels like they "forgot" to film the last few scenes and abruptly "ended" the movie on the spot. Considering the strong, climactic, symbolic endings of fairy tales, this felt like a huge disappointment after watching an otherwise stimulating film.

Despite some large plot holes and an ending that should earn the director a well-deserved kick in the nuts, I'd still like to offer a hard sell on seeing this movie. It borrows from many, but is unlike any other. I found this movie very interesting, touching and surreal.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2011
"Hanna" is a ruthless, relentless, chase featuring a teen girl assassin. It's violent and suspenseful, fast and cruel. The chase sprawls over travelogue settings in the Arctic Circle, North Africa, and Berlin. It's like the Bourne movies, like Daniel Craig's Bond movies. The difference is, of course, that the hero is not a muscle-bound adult male, but a barely muscled teenage girl, Saorise Ronan. And the focus never waivers from the chase. Hanna gets no love interest.

I generally don't go to movies I know are going to be violent and I have walked out of violent films, but I loved "Hanna" and kept my eyes open throughout almost all of it. It's not just that Hanna, the assassin, is a girl, and I'm female, too, although that was part of it. "Hanna" depicts Hanna as having an admirable work ethic, and as being an underdog. The one thing that separates her from the people she so determinedly wounds, beats, stabs, and kills is that she is just following the pedagogical training of her admirably dedicated, old-school patriarch, Erik (Eric Bana.) Erik raised his girl to know how to read, write, and kill. He did this for a righteous reason. The people Erik trained Hanna to kill are very, very bad people, and the audience wants them dead, as well. The morality and worldview of "Hanna" is very much that of the setting of its opening scene: the harsh north. This is Nordic morality, where even if you do the right thing, you may end up dead, anyway. There is no reward. If you don't end up dead, and live on, you live on only to keep fighting in a harsh, unforgiving landscape.

Saorise Ronan gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Hanna. She truly inhabits a character whose sole focus is on struggle. She enters every new landscape, from a treeless desert to a hotel room, with the focus of a wild animal: where is the food? Where is something to drink? From what direction will danger come? How will I meet it? Ronan never once slips up, never once behaves as a comfortable teenage girl would behave. She has a killer's eyes throughout the entire film. I have to wonder if this wasn't a tough film for her to make. Playing Hanna would have given me nightmares.

The film's ruthlessness becomes a bit of a failing. The film is so ready to wound and kill characters the audience wants to like, so ready to turn sweet moments into deadly poison, so ready to let any landscape become a death trap, that I did get a bit jaded about 75% into the film. I was no longer surprised when a character showed some humanity only to be dispatched in the most hateful of ways. But the film threw some new plot developments in at that point, and it kept my interest.

Cate Blanchett is terrific as Hanna's foil. Eric Bana is solid as her dedicated teacher and father. The supporting cast, including Tom Hollander and Olivia Williams, is all very good.

The Chemical Brothers' soundtrack is perfect. I often don't even hear soundtracks the first time I watch a movie, and when I do notice them, it is, all too often, because they are intrusive and trying to do the work of wrenching emotions that poor filmmaking could not do. During one breathless scene in "Hanna," I realized that the post-Apocalyptic soundtrack geared me up and made me tense and brought me into the scene in a very enjoyable way.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
This movie is one of the best I have seen in a long time. I am familiar with European cinema, so the style was not a surprise to me. I loved the characters, the music, the settings and the story. While the people around me looked puzzled I was drinking in the Grimm references, and recognizing places I have traveled. One reviewer said the Grimm FairyTales were evident but not used directly and I must disagree. The entire movie is a modern day fable, true to the Brothers Grimm. A wicked witch who wants to kill the beautiful princess who has been raised away from civilization. Sleeping Beauty, anyone? Or Rapunzel if you like. The casting is exquisite and I adored seeing Cate Blanchett as a villain, her Texas accent was priceless! I believed Eric Bana as Papa and cried for him. Ms. Ronan is spectacular. Did they write the part for her, or was she born to play it? Who knows?

The film is a visual, aural and mental treat. I never had the chance to see it in the theatre, but when we rented the disk, immediately watched it twice and truly loved it the second time more than the first. The music like the main characters is ethereal and lightning fast, applied with a restrained hand. I can listen to the album anytime and be thrilled.
I do understand some of the negative comments, but they sadden me. If you have only watched TV and Hollywood "Blockbusters" you are accustomed to a MacDonald's level movie experience. There is nothing wrong with MacDonald's from time to time, but not every day. "Hanna" is a fiercely fine sharp cup of black coffee with a fresh pastry taken in the open air. It is a treat the we each deserve at least once in our lives.
Please give this movie and chance and enjoy!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Last night's bargain rack movie was "Hanna." To me, this was not a very good movie. Where can I begin? Let's start with the best. The photography was excellent, especially the far north shots from Finland. The rest was good also, but I really liked the frozen north. Beautiful and well done! Also, before I watched the movie, I noticed that the music was by the Chemical Brothers. The Chemical Brothers? One of my favorite electronic acts? They're doing movies? Well, this I had to hear so my ears, at least, were open throughout the movie. I'd say it only barely sounded like the Chemical Brothers, but it was a well done musical score.

Alas, now the movie. It was unmitigated nonsense. There's no other way to put it. How does Hollywood come up with stuff like this? A young woman was raised in the far north of the Finland wilds to be a trained killer and aimed at a target. Alas, she was tough, to be sure, but quite a charming young lady. Miscast? I'd say so! In any case, she escapes a planned raid on the Arctic Circle hideout and emerges from a man-hole in a subtropical desert at least 3000 miles away. Trust me. I'm a geologist. Now, does this strain credibility or what? The desert looked like an obscure part of the Colorado Plateau of the Western U. S., but the local quickly changed to North Africa. Alas, I'm already having trouble following this story. Then we find her amazed with electricity and in awe of lights and fans and things of that sort. Okay, it's understandable, considering her raising. However, a few minutes later, we find her using a computer search engine to track down her father. Alas, this is a story I just can' follow. There are so many interlaced credibility gaps that the whole story makes no sense whatsoever. Let's cut it short. She finally kills her target. There!

The whole movie is just a fiasco. CIA agents everywhere. People getting killed by the dozens. Chase scenes overlapping chase scenes. Well, there's enough action that boredom doesn't set in but the story has no credibility at all. Fortunately, there was some interesting music and the photography was good.

Gary Peterson
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