Director Luc Besson has been creating some influential female character within the action genre. From Leeloo in The Fifth Element to Scarlett Johansson’s character in Lucy, he is known for working primarily in female action heroes. Of course, he is known for directing action films in general, and is identified by his unique style and use of violence, which tends to be over-the-top. Coming off his big-budget sci-fi film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, he has returned to his staple with Anna.
Set in the early 1990s (for no explained reason), we are introduced to Anna (Sasha Luss), who is recruited to join the world of Paris modeling when an agent snatches her up. She rises through the ranks and makes friendships with the other models. But Anna isn’t what she appears, when she turns the tables on a lover and kills him in cold blood.
Turns out, Anna is a trained assassin working for the KGB. Recruited from her miserable life by an assassin named Alex (Luke Evans), she soon becomes a Russian spy under the supervision of the heartless Olga (Helen Mirren). However, the more missions she goes on and the more people she kills, the more she gains the attention of people outside of Russia. It isn’t long until she is confronted by an FBI agent named Leonard Miller (Cillian Murphy), and she finds her loyalties tested.
If that description sounds confusing, it’s because this film is that confusing. Anna waists its cast on a lifeless spy film that fails to provide good thrills. It fully relies on the admittedly gorgeous looks of its lead actress to try and make up for its dull action and story that manages to confuse the audience just as they are starting to (maybe) figure out what the heck is going on.
Anna herself, as a character, isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. She’s your typical super-skilled assassin that uses her good looks to lure her targets in, and that’s about it. She isn’t given any kind of personality, such as interests or desires, beyond wanting to be free of her tyrannical heads. As a result, she never comes alive as a character, and just feels like a vehicle for the bloody action we are forced to watch.
Our hero is depicted as a skilled agent that manages to take out the seemingly endless array of villains that come her way. There are two major problems that stem from this; the first being that she is too powerful. No matter what dangerous situation she is in, she always manages to make it out almost unscathed. This gives us no reason to believe she’ll lose, which takes the thrills out of the action.
The second problem is that her skills as a cold-blooded agent are never really explained. A year goes by between Anna getting recruited by Alex and her first mission with the KGB. We’re supposed to believe that in that short amount of time, she acquired the necessary skills she needed to brutally murder everything that comes her way. That seems a bit far fetched, doesn’t it?
The film’s biggest problem lies in its story, which is so disjointed that audiences won’t know what’s happening half the time. The story presents itself in an episodic way, showing us one of Anna’s missions, which she completes without effort, then ends with her unexpectedly betraying someone. The film then goes back in time to spend around 20 minutes explaining how that betrayal happened, and the whole cycle repeats. It may just be a way to show that everything Anna does has another agenda to it, but the film skips through time so much that its nearly impossible to keep up.
Anna waists its potential, and Luc Besson’s signature talents, on a soulless spy film that spends most of its time trying to wrap as many genre clichés together as possible rather than take the time to truly harness its potential. Its beautiful lead actress can’t make up for a barrage of boring action scenes and a story that skips through time to the point of nearly breaking apart. If you’ve seen any film about a powerful, female assassin, you’ve basically seen this movie, and saved yourself two hours.