“Besson once again illustrating that he is an old hand when it comes to action movies,”

Words Sarah Kidd

French director Luc Besson has once again brought the female protagonist back to the big screen in all her fierce and independent glory with his latest offering Anna.

Female protagonists are something that Besson has favoured for a number of years now – from Anne Parillaud in 1990’s Nikita to Milla Jovovich’s portrayal of the quirky Leeloo in The Fifth Element right through to the more recent example of Scarlett Johansson in 2014’s Lucy. Throughout his career, Besson has held aloft the strength and resilience of his female leads which has been refreshing in a world full of action movies where often it is the male in the spotlight, his female co-star reduced to nothing more than a romantic by-line (even if Besson did fail to hit the mark with his last effort Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). The point being, Besson isn’t afraid to cast strong female leads who can quite clearly look after themselves in every shape and form.

Sasha Luss stars as ‘Anna’ in ANNA.

Enter Sasha Luss as Anna, a beautiful Russian market stall girl, seemingly plucked from obscurity and thrust into the world of international modelling. Of course, there is more to the story than just that, the audience soon plunged into a Cold War plot that begins its journey in 1985 where the KGB and CIA hold an unstable relationship that is fast becoming downright barbarous. Using a nonlinear narrative, the story moves backwards and forwards along a short timeline to provide the audience with the required framework for each of the plot twists, which while slightly more interesting than the usual chronological style of most films, does become somewhat tedious after a while and begins to disrupt the flow of the movie itself.

The sporadic action however is first-rate, the restaurant scene in particular showing off some tremendous fight choreography that involves unconventional weapons; Besson once again illustrating that he is an old hand when it comes to action movies, and you would hope so coming from the man who wrote such things as the Taken series.

Sasha Luss is undeniably stylish

The rather impressive cast sees Sasha Luss joined by the one-dimensional Luke Evans and the sadly underutilised Cillian Murphy, both characters reduced to nothing more than pawns in Anna’s game. Luss however certainly makes an impression considering this is only her second time appearing in a feature film (she previously worked with Besson playing a very minor role in the aforementioned Valerian); the Russian real life supermodel no doubt feeling like art imitates life as she spends a good portion of the picture pretending to be a top model, the moments themselves delivering some much needed comic relief. But it is Helen Mirren as Olga, the chain-smoking handler of Anna that casually steals every scene she appears in.

The film is undeniably stylish, the cinematography solid and overall Anna has been produced well; but it just doesn’t have the wow factor. In fact, it feels like it is trying to ride the coat tails of both Atomic Blonde and last year’s rather less successful Red Sparrow while rehashing many of the elements of Parillaud’s character in Nikita. Anna comes in at just under two hours and unfortunately, it’s length is noticeable.

Fans of the overall secret agent genre and the classic Russia vs America Cold War plot lines will enjoy the movie but may likely find it wanting when it comes to intel or fresh ideas, the robust but basic storyline just enough to carry the film along on an entertaining jaunt.