Deadly yet delightful, Anna is an outrageous and instant blockbuster that clearly rises above the competition and here’s why: director and writer Luc Besson spins beautiful, lively camp into the tired assassin trope with refreshing self-awareness and humor.
Outside of movies starring Angeline Jolie, quality female assassins are lacking in film, especially ones who are the lead. But without question, Sasha Luss is here to take the reins in her captivating portrayal of the titular role. Her turn as an international supermodel moonlighting as a KGB agent – or is it the other way around? – is highly entertaining because of the plot’s many twists and turns.
The time jumps ultimately keep the audience hooked. Much like a fish on a line, there is a struggle at first to accept the disorientating scenarios that ricochet from years in the past to months in the future and back again. One moment, Anna is dressed to the nines and shooting a man in the face in a luxury apartment; the next moment, she is dirty and unkempt, being emotionally and physically abused by a boyfriend. But these time jumps also invite the audience to solve the riddle that is Anna’s life. In this pursuit, there isn’t just one big twist, but several. The frequent shocks of these sudden developments keep the film alive for those watching.
Plot twists are part and parcel of Anna’s intrigue, but the campiness of the melodrama and characters is even more fun. It’s readily apparent that the filmmakers and actors are not taking things too seriously. This isn’t Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne with the stiff upper lips and monochrome color palettes. Instead, we get Helen Mirren in fur coats and coke bottles, lighting her cigarette with a hand grenade lighter, as she coolly regales Anna about the time she was caught in a bear trap during a training mission in Siberia. We get Anna undercover as a supermodel in Paris, as she flits from haute couture fashion shoots to lethal missions. It might sound tedious to some, but the film imbues every moment with a little humor, a little sex, or the irony of both.
Despite the overall exhilaration of the story, Anna’s motivations for wanting to join and then leave the KGB are dreary and nonsensical. She wants to be free from her abusive boyfriend, so she joins the KGB, is intimate with and kills a bunch of men, only to still be unsatisfied and lacking the freedom she desires. It’s a messy, slightly bland characterization of an otherwise badass woman. Luckily, it gets buried under the impact of each wicked twist.
This film is the exact kind of kick starter needed in this genre. It is wildly, unabashedly entertaining – sexy, and full of shootouts. The always impressive Mirren coupled with Besson’s direction help make this movie a remarkable one. Its name: Anna.
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