French film director Luc Besson, introduces audiences to a new action heroine in Anna from Lionsgate. The year is 1990, and Anna Poliatova (Sasha Luss) is a beautiful young woman selling China dolls in Russia to make ends meet. One day, Anna meets a man who wants her to become a model, which she does, and soon she’s in a relationship with this man.
Months pass, and both the audience and Anna learn that her new beau is an arms dealer. Without hesitation, Anna shoots him dead, and we learn that Anna is a KGB agent working for Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans) and KGB handler Olga (Helen Mirren).
Needing a break from all of the killing, Anna takes a tropical vacation where she encounters CIA agent Leonard Miller (Cillian Murphy). Sensing Anna is an agent, Miller agrees to help Anna escape the KGB if she takes them down from the inside. Anna then realizes that it will take all of her training to get over the men pulling strings.
Luc Besson has been one of my favorite action directors, who utilizes a woman as the heroine in his 1990 film La Femme Nikita. For his latest venture, Besson casts model and new actress Sasha Luss in the lead, with successful results. Naturally beautiful in her own right, Luss brings a natural feminine charm to the role, which masks a deadly killer, who’s trained in hand to hand combat as well as weaponry.
Luss is in about 85% of the film scenes, which is a vast undertaking for any actress, but she glides through the role with ease. While the performance isn’t award-worthy, it is an excellent start for a novice actress
Taking the audience on a journey that requires her to tap into a numerous of emotions. I must also commend Besson for tapping into some of the strengths and character traits of his former female characters to create Anna. For me, Anna is a composite of Nikita’s marksmen skills from La Femme Nikita, Leeloo’s martial arts skills from The Fifth Element, and Mathilda’s ambition from Leon: The Professional.
The supporting cast, which includes Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, and Cillian Murphy, all provide reliable work. Helen Mirren is one of the best actress’ working today and portrays Olga as a grizzled veteran with ice in her veins. Luke Evans provides us with his usual smoldering alpha male tough-guy persona. At the same time, Cillian Murphy brings a subdued, yet smug & corrupt swag to his role of the CIA Agent.
Action movie purists will have much to smile about in terms of the film’s fight scenes. One of the movie’s big action centerpieces, which takes place in an eatery, is part of the film’s marketing campaign. Thankfully the trailer doesn’t spoil this entire sequence. Besson handles the direction of the action with skill and hasn’t lost a step.
The script for Anna may come off as confusing for some, as Besson avoids a linear narrative and instead chooses to go the non-linear route. Initially, I found some fault with this choice, as the plot became confusing; however, once the film reaches its conclusion, all of the twists and turns Besson set up, make sense. Sitting in the theater seat next to me was my eleven-year-old son, who remarked, “Ah, now I get it” once the credits rolled.
Anna isn’t Luc Besson’s best film, nor is it the best female lead action film of 2019. Instead Anna is an enjoyable popcorn flick with just enough cinematic eye candy to enjoy at the local cinema during a hot summer day.
Final Grade C+