Although it opens like “America’s Next Top Model: The Movie”, Luc Besson’s latest action-fest plays out more like a poor carbon copy of last year’s “Red Sparrow”. It’s certainly more fun than “Red Sparrow”, but that’s not a particularly high bar to clear.
Anna (Sasha Luss) is a KGB honey trap agent working in Paris as a model but after her latest successful mission, she attracts the attention of the CIA in the form of Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy). Despite this, her KGB handlers Tchenkov (Luke Evans) and Olga (Helen Mirren) continue to assign her targets. As the great superpowers of the 1990s play out their spy versus spy game, Anna finds herself caught between the KGB and the CIA, wanting nothing more than her own freedom.
“Anna” sees Besson firmly in his comfort zone but that comfort seems to have bred complacency and that complacency has, in turn, spread to the cast of this tediously convoluted thriller.
The story itself is pretty straightforward (and almost exactly the same as “Red Sparrow”) in that Anna is recruited at a very low turning point in her life by the KGB and is then placed under the custodianship of a dismissive spy mistress (Helen Mirren picking up a paycheque) all the while carrying on an illicit affair with her KGB recruiter Tchenkov.
For a Luc Besson action movie, there’s a distinct lack of action and what action there is feels lifeless and routine. The performances are pretty much fine, with the established veterans coasting through although Sasha Luss oddly seems to get a little stiffer and more wooden as the film progresses. Nobody, least of all the audience, is helped by a zig-zagging flashback structure which was probably meant to unfold like an intricately architected origami sculpture but instead resembles the unravelling of a crumpled-up handful of post-it notes. There’s no comfort in the dialogue either, which sounds like it wasn’t first written in English, only translated later via Google.
“Anna” treats its audience as idiots, explaining even the most mundane and obvious twists in detail and while Sasha Luss tries hard, she doesn’t really have the edge or complexity to bring this would-be superspy story to life and, under Besson’s uninvested direction ends up a very vanilla Villanelle knock-off