Anna is going to be one of those films that develops a cult following in the years to come. It’s certainly not one that’s impressed at the box office and it hasn’t been showered with kind words by influential critics. That’s a shame and an oversight. Luc Besson’s latest movie deserved a little more attention.
It’s far from a masterpiece and this isn’t a fanboy review. There is also an argument there’s nothing entirely new here. Beeson’s best film, La Femme Nikita, is effectively given a modern makeover, albeit with a Cold War take. This has led to comparisons with Atomic Blonde (another underrated film) but they are different beasts.
Atomic Blonde’s Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, is a fully-formed MI6 agent sent to Berlin to find a double agent. There are hints of backstory and an noticeable attempt to appear flash and cool. It’s based on a graphic novel and compared to Anna the characters do feel like something pulled from the pages of a comic book. This isn’t a bad thing, it just isn’t a Luc Besson thing.
The fight sequences between the two movies take different approaches too. Atomic Blonde’s only become clear when viewed as a whole. In the early phases of the film, the action combat lacks impact, appears substandard. The final fight is so slick, clever and dynamic its as if director David Leitch found an extra set of gears.
It could be a clever trick: set the bar low, then blow them away.
Beeson’s build is more character focused. Like La Femme Nikita, violence is thrown at the viewer early on, this adds to a visceral feel. The movie is about Anna’s journey from a person who has nothing, no choices, to becoming a primed assassin. Each action sequence matches the state of her development perfectly.
Anna does subtle time jumps, back and forth, laying the breadcrumbs for everything that follows. With this being a Hollywood friendly version of the Nikita framework, nothing is unforeseen and all ambiguity explained. Beeson even reuses a closing scene from La Femme Nikita with two of Anna’s acquaintances sat at a table wondering where she is. Unlike the former film, an extra fifteen minutes is added to fully explain.
Both movies have a strong supporting cast. James McAvoy is a zany support to Theron’s blonde of the picture’s title and Cillian Murphy channels his best Michael Keaton in every scene he shares with Sasha Luss. She plays a good Anna, a woman with a singular drive – freedom. Based on this performance, she should be free to choose her next role.