So ANNA came out in June and I skipped it because the Rotten Tomatoes reviews were bad and basically cut off any waning interest I had in seeing it. The trailer looked to me like Luc Besson just trying to copy elements of Atomic Blonde and John Wick and while I thought it would maybe have a couple of exciting action sequences it would ultimately just be a shrug and a mind wipe away from obscurity. I’m writing this review knowing that you probably can’t see this in theaters right now, and is probably still a month away from being released digitally/Blu-ray, but I got the chance to see it the other day, and thought I’d put in my two cents because it is actually a decently solid flick, albeit a couple of distracting flaws.
I took off this past Friday because I was just really needed a day off work and wanted to just have a relaxing day before I saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood that night. I had a friend staying over for a couple of days (she just came down to see Leo’s new movie because she’s obsessed with his Dic…Caprio) and was trying to find us stuff to do while we waited for the new Tarantino movie, and since I’m a very closed minded individual and think the only two things to do in Texas is shop and see movies, I chose the latter. Since I have either seen everything already in first run theaters or had 0% interest in everything else there, I looked up the only $1 second run theater we have in any sort of close proximity to us, and saw that Anna had only one showtime left playing it, and it was at the perfect time to waste some time. (Fun fact: I didn’t realize until yesterday but the day that we saw Anna was actually the last day that dollar theater in Plano was going to be open for awhile, it’s been closed and remodeled to turn itself into a first run theater since the idea of a dollar theater is essentially dead because media comes out digitally less than 3 months later after initial release nowadays). So I paid a measly three bucks for us both to see it, and came out expectantly surprised.
From director Luc Besson, who has done some classic films such as The Fifth Element or Leon The Professional, and some not so classic films like Lucy and Valerian, comes well, another actioner that is maybe somewhere in the middle between all those past projects of his. Again, if I talk too much about the plot, it will lose some of the edge it has on you if it sounds interesting and you eventually rent or buy or illegal download it sometime in the future. All I will say is that it stars a real-life model named Sasha Luss as a girl named Anna, and she’s strong, badass, and works for the KGB while moonlighting as a well…model, during the day. The whole movie she keeps on telling other characters and the audience countless times that she wants out of the life and just wants to rest and be left alone, so we know what the end goal is. Whether Anna reaches that goal and how is the whole basis of the story. The movie also co-stars Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, and the great Hellen Mirren, as Besson and the studio knew well that the movie couldn’t garner interest for Luss alone as she is a no name for right now.
Acting wise the movie is very solid. Sasha Luss, even though she is a real-life model, is actually pretty great as Anna. She displays all the ranges of emotions asked from her and didn’t think she was over acting one second of the film. The only problem is that her character is sort of one note, as she’s just complaining about wanting her own life the whole film but the screenplay doesn’t really give her much of an arc to actually earn that sympathy from the audience. Luke Evans is convincing as a KGB agent that recruits her, Hellen Mirren is great as both of their bosses, and Cillian Murphy is effective as a CIA agent trying to go through the motions trying to find out what the Russians are up to. Oh, did I mention this takes place in the late 80’s, early 90s with Russia and the U.S. still kind of trying to figure shit out after the Cold War? Probably should’ve started with that so it didn’t sound like a futuristic movie where we are against the Russians (maybe that wouldn’t been cool though?).
Where the movie kind of stumbles is that it tries to pull the wool over the audiences eyes one too many times and the constant switch of the passage of time. At the beginning of the film it felt like every few minutes we were getting a new title card that says, “Five years earlier,” “3 days later,” “4 hours earlier,” “Three Months Later,” so on and so forth. It wasn’t hard to keep up with per say, it was just kind of annoying. Also constantly throughout the movie and more so near the end, the movie double backs on itself and reveals to the audience certain events that “happened to be left out” of scenes that we saw previously. So when anything bad happened to Anna or any other good character, at one point I sort of stopped caring/believing, knowing that the film would just double back on itself and reveal a happier point of view. The movie is the literal definition of the phrase, “Fool me once, shame on you…”
Also, the beginning of the movie is kind of slow, but I appreciated that it kept my interest more and more the further it went out, most movies are usually the opposite of that. There were a couple of things to even out the beginnings pacing and the time passage annoyances, such as the action wasn’t over done and when it was happening on screen it was well shot and effective. Luc Besson knows how to direct movies for sure, the problem is his stories. He’s got good ideas, it is just the executions are a bit off. This includes his writing only credits such as the Transporter series and the Taken series. Valerian and the City of A Thousand planets is almost the exact same thing, except that movie isn’t that great because of the acting of the two leads. But Anna is a pretty solid movie, much better than I was originally giving it credit for. It is the definition of a perfect rental, perfect streaming film, and a perfect lazy afternoon at the movies. Just shut your brain off before you start viewing.