Zoe Saldana establishes herself as a superstar in Colombiana. She brings a quiet brutality that is part animal pursuing its prey and all woman with vulnerability and viciousness when wronged. Saldana, as Cataleya, is a killer yes, but given her life’s beginnings, expecting anything less from her would be naïve.
Saldana’s character Cataleya begins the movie at the age of nine witnessing a tragedy that will haunt her entire life: Her parents are murdered right in front of her. It sends her on foot evading the killers in a chase scene through the barrios of her Colombia hometown. It is in those opening moments that it becomes immediately clear that Colombiana is from the mind of French filmmaking team Luc Besson and Olivier Megaton.
There’s a fervor to the race for Cataleya’s freedom that is not usually seen in U.S. thrillers. It feels very Jason Bourne and rightfully so as the two films share a stunt and fight coordinator.
Once Cataleya lands in Chicago, far from harm’s way, the film allows for character development as the young girl is mentored by her uncle. She may be only nine, but she lets it be known what she wants to do with her life. “I want to be a killer,” she coolly says. And the revenge story is off and running.
The action sequences are electric. By the 15 minute mark, the astounding work of young actress Amandla Stenberg is handed off to Saldana and audiences witness her take as a hit woman working a job within the claustrophobic confines of a jail. You won’t hear a peep from us about the scene or any more of the action, for it will ruin its power. Just know this: It sizzles.
Director Megaton has captured lightning with the casting of Saldana as Cataleya. The Avatar and The Losers star establishes herself as a go-to actress with the expansive performance she exhibits in Colombiana. Through her work, we see her fierceness -- a cold-bloodedness born on the streets of Colombia. But filmmakers also allow our heroine to show a crack in her armor with a love story. She and Danny (a perfectly cast Michael Vartan) have something special, but Cataleya cannot let him get too close, for his and her safety’s sake. Screenwriter Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen with director Megaton have woven the love interest storyline that allows the audience to see Cataleya’s vulnerabilities as she battles with her never-ending effort to keep those walls of emotion firmly erected and not slip into love's grasp.
In the end, Colombiana is an action film of the highest order. It is a revenge tale, but so much more. Colombiana is also a female empowerment movie. No, the film is not in the vein of Erin Brockovich or Norma Rae in their dramatic scope and power, but it inspires in the sense of witnessing a character such as Cataleya in her relentless pursuit of justice.