One thing is clear after seeing this film, the reason why the trailer is made up of the action sequences and the plot is simply presented as “model who is also a Russian assassin” is because the plot is too convoluted to show in a narrative trailer or to explain in a sentence or two but I’ll do my best.
Anna (Sasha Luss) gets a new purpose in life when she is recruited to the KGB by Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans). Quickly she is one of the KGB’s most feared and successful assassins and she soon comes onto the radar of CIA Agent Lenny Miller (Luke Evans).
Doesn’t sound so complicated like that right? And if the film had a linear narrative without what felt like a dozen flashbacks it would have been a generic but potentially entertaining film. That wasn’t the case though.
Anna opens in 1985 Moscow and after some espionage gone wrong a title card says “5 years later”. This is when you meet the titular Anna as she gets headhunted for a modelling agency and whisked off to Paris. After shooting a man in the head another title card appears – “3 years earlier”. This is where you learn how Anna’s life was so terrible (the establishing shot is of her being raped by her boyfriend) and you see Alex come to her with an opportunity and how she is trained by him and Olga (a very grouchy and somewhat amusing Helen Mirren). Then another title card appears “3 years later” and this is the one that gets me as it treats the audience like their idiots who can’t take cues from clothing, dialogue and the setting to show that this is not long after we saw Anna kill a man.
For a while the film appears to have found its feet now its done all of the character set up but then with every single twist and double- or triple-cross, there’s a title card saying “6 months earlier” or “3 months earlier”, to show you something you’ve already seen but from a different angle and to explain in detail why and how the twist has happened. Some of the twists do add another dimension to the story, but there soon ends up being so many of them that you can’t help but roll your eyes as yet another title card appears on screen.
Luc Besson’s stylised action is on fine form here, a brawl in a restaurant between Anna and multiple assailants is a brutal and thrilling sequence, but it is nothing you haven’t seen before. And, if you’ve seen a couple of Besson’s films before, you’ll have seen it a lot better too.
Anna is a film that believes it is far smarter than it is and having better execution of all the double-crossing the spies do may have stopped Anna from feeling so repetitive and dull. Model-turned-actress Sasha Luss is serviceable as a model-turned-assassin but unfortunately for her, the film is not serviceable and ends up as messy nonsense.
Directed by: Luc Besson
Cast: Sasha Luss, Luke Evans, Cillian Muphy, Helen Mirren and Luke Evans