Starting from humble beginnings, Anna is a poor young woman with no future, stuck with her small-time, grimy criminal boyfriend and living a filthy life of stealing and dealing drugs. But everything changes when one of their crimes ends in tragedy.
At this point, a man named Alex, representing the Russian government, gives her an ultimatum: die or become a spy. Obviously choosing life, Anna undergoes grueling training under the watchful eye of Olga, a seasoned, tough-as-nails spy.
Though the training is hard and painful, Anna faces a near-impossible initiation test when she shows courage and passes with flying colors.
She impresses her superiors so much she earns her first assignment as a sexy fashion model; a cover job allows her to travel the globe without raising eyebrows.
After successfully completing numerous missions, Anna unfortunately finds herself trapped in a web of power struggles and betrayals involving American agents and her Russian colleagues.
Caught in a bind by both sides, she must use her wits and combat skills to navigate the dangerous game; while operating in the shadows, Anna aims to escape the crossfire of the two intelligence agencies and be finally free.
A director who divides the audience
After the commercial success of Lucy and the flop of the ambitious Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, director Luc Besson was perhaps looking for confirmation. Therefore, he decided to play it safe and returned to his roots with an unofficial remake of his best-loved and best-remembered movie, La Femme Nikita.
Although Anna fails to fully capture the same intimate charm of the 1990s cult classic, it undoubtedly stands above many competitors in the 2019 action-spy genre movie.
Unfortunately, the film did not perform as expected, making roughly its production cost; nevertheless, it is an excellent example of solid entertainment from a director who has sharpened his cinematic weapons to perfection.
Although many have harshly criticized him, I continue to admire Besson’s creativity, and how could I not?
The fight and shootout scenes in Anna are perfect for the pacing and the elegant style in which he moves the camera or how closely he follows the beautiful and unknown Sasha Luss, a dazzling new promise of talent.
Sexuality, aggression, brains, and plenty of charisma: this leading lady lacks absolutely nothing to break through.
Regarding the screenplay, Besson adds his usual blend of love and betrayal and deftly handles the main characters, Anna, Olga, Alex, and the American Lenny, in a skillful poker of dark figures between deception and double-crossing.
I struggle to understand the criticisms leveled at the film, but I cannot read the minds of the entire world audience. However, for those who love the genre and appreciate Besson’s imagination, Anna is a thrilling journey that is undoubtedly worth your time and ticket price.
Romance and betrayal in French fashion
In the exaggerated world of spies, which feels like a comic book come to life, each cast member embodies an ideal genre stereotype. As the story progresses, Sasha Luss shines as the young and naive Anna, who changes into a ruthless war and deception machine.
She excels with strength and athleticism in numerous action scenes and brings elegance and allure to her cover job as a fashion model. Anna also excels in psychological manipulation, even though she sometimes gets caught in her intricate webs.
Transitioning to the male leads, we find Anna torn between Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy, two spies who each fight for her affection in their own way. They either assist or exploit her according to their needs while trying to settle a long-standing, bloody feud between the Russian and American governments.
Finally, the ever-reliable Helen Mirren delivers a performance full of humanity as the hard-nosed yet trusted mentor and friend, Olga. Initially skeptical, the seasoned ex-spy begins to see shades of her younger self in Anna, leading to mentor-student bonding.
In summary, these four characters serve as the major planets around which the story orbits, colliding in action-packed explosions that Besson masterfully elevates to pure cinematic delight. He cleverly manages plot twists through sudden but well-placed flashbacks.