After his foray into space with Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, the legendary writer/director Luc Besson returns to action and his love of naming films after people (“Leon”, “Lucy”, “Nikita” etc), with Anna.
There’s a big elephant in the room issue with Anna (and I’m not talking about the accusations flying around about Besson) which is that it has all been done for and, sadly, it’s been done better, even by Besson himself.
Let’s not forget this is the man that has all but brought us the female action hero, starting with “La Femme Nikita”, but we’ve also had a Russian female spy movie just recently with the Jennifer Lawrence starring Red Sparrow and before that we had Atomic Blonde with Charlize Theron.
Anna wrapped late in 2017 so when Red Sparrow came out, Besson mustn’t have been thrilled. Rather than do anything about it though, he seems to have just sat on the movie before finally releasing it. Though because of the accusations it has released with little fanfare.
Anna, Sasha Luss (“Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets“, “Kanye West: Wolves”), is a Soviet spy, recruited to go undercover in the US as a model. This she does and is very successful at it. But all Anna really wants is her freedom, to do whatever she wishes, not be at the beck and call of whoever is paying her.
She believes the opportunity arises when she is also hired by the CIA to spy on the Russians, as part of her deal with CIA operative Cillian Murphy (“Dunkirk“, “Free Fire“), she asks to be set free, a place in Hawaii, after one year. He reluctantly agrees.
But the Russian’s aren’t stupid, particularly not when your handler is Helen Mirren (“Trumbo“, “Eye In The Sky”) and your recruiter Luke Evans (“Fast & Furious 8“, “Beauty And The Beast“), and they know something is going on.
Anna is filmed in a non-linear format, we leap about, five years here, three years, six months, three months. The first couple of times this occurs it’s new and interesting and keeps you on your toes, but you very quickly get used to it and very quickly get bored of it, particularly as it starts to get easier and easier to pre-empt what’s happening as the story progresses.
The action is dialled up to Atomic Blonde levels and Besson, as we’ve always known he can, shoots in a positive and exhilarating way. However, it’s everything in between that isn’t as successful, which is sadly starting to become a trait of Besson too.
The story gets old and dull very quickly and you’re always a few steps ahead after the first hour. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but you’ve still got another hour to go, that’s right, this is a two-hour long action flick, trying to be a drama/thriller, but in truth getting a bit muddled between them all.
It’s a shame as Luss, in what is essentially her first film, performs admirably. Her fighting scenes (I’m unclear exactly what she did herself) are great, very gritty but with more than a hint of stylisation thrown in too.
Naturally there are some dodgy Russian accents going on, mainly from Evans who lapses into British a few times and Mirren who isn’t all that convincing. But it’s not just them, Luss sounds more American at times than is right given how long she’s supposed to have spent there.
Overall Anna is a disappointment; it’s too long, too convoluted and comes on the back of some similar films that were just that bit better.