Anna is the most even-keeled film from director Luc Besson in quite some time, but that’s not saying much. Between its sparse action scenes and non-linear structure, it keeps our attention, but fails to truly sell its own premise.
The title role of Anna is played by Russian model Sasha Luss. Anna is a Russian spy whose cover is working as a model in Paris. This doesn’t feel like it’s much of a stretch for Luss, but the newcomer to acting is actually quite good at handling the icy character. Anna is smart and reserved and seems like she was born to be recruited by the KGB.
The film zigs and zags its way across the last years of the Cold War. Starting in 1985, heading into 1990, and breezing all along the years in between, we see Anna’s development as an international agent from training to deep cover. All this time-hopping feels like Besson’s stab at imitating Guy Ritchie’s clever cross-cutting from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, though there are far too few characters and hijinks to make it as effective.
The intrigue and international capers are fun enough, but Anna is best when Anna herself shows off her deadly skills as a KGB agent. Her first mission goes terribly wrong, but in the recovery of the situation Anna gets to show everyone how resourceful she can be when she’s focused on her goal. Much like John Wick, Anna has a balance of impossibly creative kills and hits with guns that actually run out of bullets. I would hesitate to call anything in this movie realistic, but that’s always a nice touch. In the restaurant where this all goes down, she leaves a wake of bodies and blood, and we gain some confidence in both Anna and Anna.
Sadly, that first mission is only one of two such sequences in Anna. The film’s strength lies solely in Besson’s action sequences, but he only bothers to give us two of them. The rest of the movie is spent with the plot tripping over itself to be clever and reveal the twists in overwritten ways.
Anna has enough fun telling us the tale of the glamorous life of Cold War spies, but never dares go beyond that.