Rogue of the Week: Saoirse Ronan

Thursday, 14 April 2011 14:45 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue of the Week: Saoirse Ronan

Many grown up actors with years of experience cannot carry the dramatic weight of an entire film, let alone one in which they're also required to convincingly be a full-on action hero, doing all manner of kung fu and stunts aplenty.  Yet 17 year-old actress Saoirse Ronan somehow accomplished all of the above as the title character in Hanna, which came in at number 2 in the weekend's box office, besting Arthur, a heavily marketed comedy starring far more recognizable stars.

Okay, I know this pixie-looking actress doesn't resemble your typical idea of a "rogue", but bear with me here.

Ronan, whose first name is pronounced 'Sur-shuh', was born Stateside, in New York City, but moved to Ireland at the age of 3 with her mother and father, actor Paul Ronan.  She began acting at 9, with small roles on the Irish television series The Clinic, followed by another on the show Proof. Her first feature film was I Could Never Be Your Woman, with Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer, followed by a smaller role in the 2007 British film The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

In 2007, Ronan was nominated for an Academy Award at 13 years old, on account of her role in director Joe Wright's Atonement.  In the film, she played the crucial youngest iteration of Briony, who was played in later scenes by Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave.  Not only did she credibly play that same character as a legend like Redgrave, but she also held her own onscreen with the likes of Keira Knightley and James McAvoy

With Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestselling novel 'The Lovely Bones', Ronan emerged squeaky clean from a film that was critically eviscerated.  As Susie Salmon, a murdered 14 year old watching the devastating effects of her murder from the afterlife, Ronan showed a control of the material that Jackson himself apparently did not possess.  Her performance finds exactly the right melancholic tone, while the film around her oscillates uncomfortably.  Rumors suggest that Jackson was so impressed with Ronan that he created an elfin character for her in the currently-filming two-part Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit.

As a 16 year-old trained by her father (Eric Bana) to be an unstoppable killing machine in Hanna, Ronan convincingly kicks the ass of each and every obstacle in her way, and despite the inherent absurdity of the film, her performance allows the audience to happily suspend their disbelief.  She makes a believable foil for Cate Blanchett, one of the most respected actors working today.  What makes Hanna special, however, is not that she's a bone-cruncher on par with Steven Seagal; it's that Ronan simultaneously awes us with her combat mastery and unfailingly retains our sympathy, even when she's snapping necks and hunting reindeer with a bow and arrow.

Now that kudos have been properly issued, it must be said that she didn't earn her standing as Rogue of the Week for simply being a preternaturally talented young actress.  The role of Hanna was a risky one for Ronan.  Without the right director to pull off exactly the right tone, the actress could have come off a laughable.  Danny Boyle had been developing Hanna, and when he exited the project, it was Ronan who suggested Joe Wright for the job.  He's hardly the obvious choice, having directed Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist, yet his stylish approach suits the screenplay perfectly.

So Hanna star Saoirse Ronan is our Rogue of the Week, for refusing to rest on her already considerable accomplishments and for boldly bringing her own sensibility to an exceedingly risky film. 

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