Anna is the newest action-thriller written and directed by stylized European B-movie master Luc Besson (León: The Professional, The Fifth Element). The film stars Sasha Luss as a Russian model-turned-assassin as she finds herself trapped in a web of lies and seeks to regain her freedom.
Unfortunately, this movie is destined to be weighed down by the allegations recently made against Besson which shine a sinister new light on the film. Many of Besson’s movies have felt creepy and overly sexualized, and this is no exception, but knowing his actions make some of the scenes feel even more uncomfortably voyeuristic. The sequences involving modeling come across as particularly problematic, for example. Even though the protagonist is a strong female character, the way she is treated by not only the men in the film, but also by the camera, makes it feel somewhat in poor taste.
The movie’s story is nothing revolutionary, but Besson’s stories never are — it is the simple charms of his scripts that make them entertaining and diverting. If you dig too deeply into the story, it falls apart pretty quickly. The story is that of a pretty standard espionage thriller, feeling in many ways like an inferior version of Atomic Blonde. There is enough to enjoy about it, but it does not rank among Besson’s best.
Perhaps the film’s biggest issue is that it is simply too long. Clocking in at nearly two hours, the movie feels like it has outstayed its welcome even before it reaches its big climax. Besson opts for a nonlinear presentation of the story in the hopes that it will make the twists feel more cinematic, but instead succeeds only in frustrating the audience and making the film twenty minutes longer than it really should be.
The character development in the movie is also somewhat lackluster. Anna is given a very forced and contrived backstory (complete with an unnecessary and gratuitous rape scene) that does succeed in giving her the bare minimum in terms of sympathetic qualities. However, it is instead the few dialogue-heavy scenes in which she is given that make her likable, as the banter works quite well.
Luss is a better actress than you would anticipate given the fact that she is an actress-turned-model, but she holds her own against the three excellent character actors with whom she shares the screen. It’s a shame that this film is going to be buried, as she shows that she has the potential to be a charismatic and fun action star if she were given a less average starring vehicle in which she could take part.
It is the development of the supporting characters that is most frustrating. None of the supporting characters, even Anna’s KGB boss played by Mirren, are given significant enough development for us to care about them. Sure, it is fun to see Mirren ham it up for once, but the character just doesn’t have enough of an arc. As for Anna’s two love interests, portrayed by Evans and Murphy, the movie fails in making the love triangle (technically a quadrilateral) feel realistic.
Furthermore, the film doesn’t deliver on the promise of plenty of gritty European B-movie action. There are a few superb sequences throughout the film, but those are few and far between. Instead, we are met with mostly forgettable, if somewhat diverting action. For example, the restaurant fight (the main selling point in the trailer) doesn’t work at all because the music to which it is set just isn’t exciting enough. As a whole, it feels like if a few better decisions had been made, the movie could have been far better.
Anna certainly isn’t the worst or most disappointing action film to come out this year, but it isn’t the hit that it should have been given the talent involved. Instead, it is mostly average action fare, diverting enough of a watch for a discount Tuesday or a rental when it comes out on home video.
Anna is now playing in theaters.