Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Movie Review of Anna 2019

Anna movie 2019
    Shanna Besson / Lionsgate

Anna is a Spy Thriller in Luc Besson's mold 

If you have seen enough Luc Besson movies, by now you have a good idea of what to expect. Just like Lucy, the Fifth Element, and La Femme Nikita, this writer crafts a specific image of resilient female characters. Anna follows the tried a true formula of his past projects, where a woman finding herself in an unfortunate situation has no choice but do the organization's bidding. The difference is, this time that organization is KGB.

The movie is set in the last years of Soviet Union's existence of late 1980s through 1991. Before we ever meet Anna, the opening scenes are incredibly exciting and dynamic as they follow a spy sweep of CIA assets in Russia by KGB in 1985. As a result, a brutal new KGB director sends a message to CIA, received by agent Lenny Miller played by the talented Cillian Murphy.

Multiple Time Jumps make Anna predictable 

If there's one thing that Luc Besson does, is repeat the same formula over and over again. A time jump in story telling can be a powerful tool. However when this tool is used more than twice and the reveals in each are uniform, the viewers lose all sense of suspense as the movie plot becomes predictable. This is sadly the case with Anna, where five time jumps remove all suspense from the last forty minutes of this movie.

We first see the main character Anna, played by the attractive newcomer Sasha Luss, as a matryoshka nesting nesting doll seller at a market in Moscow, when she is recruited by a French talent scout to become a model in Paris. I must admit, that I absolutely love Luc Besson's visuals of Paris in all of his movies. However, the quick ascent of an unknown girl from Moscow to becoming a top model in Paris overnight is less than believable.

The first person we see Anna execute in this movie is a big surprise to the viewers, and the time jump following is masterful in revealing her background story to the audience. However, the subsequent time jumps only condition the viewers to anticipate the next step, and just past the midway point of this plot the veil of suspense is reduced, if not lifted altogether.

Anna the Trained Assassin 

The main character's background is well introduced, as well as her recruitment by Alex Tchenkov, played by Luke Evans, follows closely with the old script of La Femme Nikita. The person who trains her is Olga, masterfully played by Helen Mirren. This training sequence is one of the best parts of the movie and deserves a lot of credit. Subsequently, Olga guides her apprentice through various missions, until on one occasion, she decides to give Anna a tropical vacation after spotting something out of the ordinary in her.

As a result of multiple exposure during her missions, Anna is put into a difficult situation between the CIA agent Lenny Miller and the KGB agent Alex Tchenkov. Here we see the acting chops of Cillian Murphy and Luke Evans on full display. While the viewer is left in the dark in this movie for the last time, the deadly assassin is able execute a tremendous gamble that brings this movie to its final climax. In its final act, Helen Mirren is sensational and plays her role to perfection. The only real disappointment in terms of acting performances here is Sasha Luss. She is good enough to pull off the model early on, but with the exception of a couple of key moments, her performance is rather bland.

The movie falls short of great Cinema

Anna is a Spy Thriller and not an Action movie. While there are two really well choreographed prolonged action scenes, the majority of the movie plot is a spy versus spy puzzle, a mystery, that is along the lines of the greatest spy films of all time. Unfortunately, that mystery and the film's execution are greatly diminished by the aforementioned choppy time jumps that make the latter sequences of the movie rather predictable. While the ending is a white-knuckle edge of your seat suspense, it is solely attributed to the performances of the supporting cast in Helen Mirren, Cillian Murphy, and Luke Evans.

The movie also loses in its attention to historical detail. The characters use modern cars, advanced laptop computers, USB drives, and the like. Someone forgot that this was 1990 in Soviet Union where such things were at least fifteen years from becoming reality. This kind of a gaffe, put together with the lackluster performance by the leading lady and the time jumps, brings this movie down a notch from the greatest spy films.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics have given this movie a failing grade of 36% approval, while Metacritic has given it a score of 40 so far. I'm not going to be quite as harsh in my review of Anna. The story line is good, the screenplay is dynamic, and the cast overall does a good job of keeping the audience entertained. While it falls short of Great Cinema, it is worthy of a rental and I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, grab your popcorn, milk duds, turn off the phone, and enjoy the movie.

28 comments:

  1. I watched this movie couple days ago. Luc Besson demonstrates that he has lost the ability to innovate and to surprise viewers.

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    1. Beti, I completely agree. He beats the same Nikita formula to a pulp, but this time with a bland performance from a leading lady. The plot twists were actually not bad, but the time jumps and lack of attention to detail ruined it for me.

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  2. Cool post. The movie is not really my style but it does seem interesting.

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    1. Slavica, if you have seen Nikita and Red Sparrow, you have pretty much seen this movie.

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  3. I've seen the previews for this but it wasn't really something that caught my attention, not sure If I will give it a try or not.

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    1. Luna S, this is more of a catch it when it's on material. But if you're into the spy thriller/puzzle genre, then you will find this entertaining, even though it's unoriginal.

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  4. I really love such movies ... will sure watch this!!

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    1. Yes, it is entertaining. This spy thriller is worth watching once... just once.

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  5. I haven't seen Luc Besson movies, but Anna looks like a great movie for spy movie lovers.

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    1. If you haven't seen any of his movies, then Anna will be especially delightful for you. For those who have seen Nikita or Point of No Return, it won't be as fun.

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  6. Haven't seen or heard of this, I may need to check this out.

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    1. It is a worthwhile watch if you haven't seen many Nikita-style movies, and like spy thriller genre.

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  7. To be honest, I haven't heard of this movie until now. I've watching a few spy fills (not just James Bond lmao) and I actually enjoyed a few of them. I refer to Rotten Tomato first to see if its worth watching. Good review!

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    1. It has a very good story, but a little bit too windy directing style that detracts. Overall, entertaining, which is why my score is better than Rotten Tomatoes' or Metacritic.

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  8. Thanks for the honest review. To be frank, am not much of a fan of spy thrillers.

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    1. And that's fine. My point was to make sure a fan of action movies doesn't expect it from this spy thriller. A lot of people went to see this movie and were disappointed, because they thought it was something it wasn't

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  9. Thriller is my favourite genre. So I am going to watch it. And I love strong female characters. So far I have liked their movies.

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    1. Then this is a movie for you. Keep in mind though, that Sasha Luss is a rookie (previously a model), and this is her first feature as a leading actress. The rest of the cast is sensational though.

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  10. I will check this out. Nice review, btw.

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    1. Thanks Chesz, just to re-iterate - this movie is for spy thriller lovers, not necessary those who expect an action movie out of it.

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  11. I've been looking forward to this movie. Thanks for the detailed review!

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    1. No problem, I hope I was of some help and you enjoy this movie.

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  12. Must admit I agree with the low scores on this one. Took me a couple of attempts to get through it but eventually did but it left a somewhat "unfulfilled" feeling for me

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    1. The lack of originality and a rather on par performance by the first time leading lady did draw the movie scores down on this one. But as a spy thriller, the story line and its execution by the rest of the cast is still enjoyable and entertaining to a degree.

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  13. ah nice ! have to check this move out. Im always on the look out for an interesting one

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    1. Jessica, if you like spy thrillers, but originality isn't the most important factor, then this is definitely the movie for you. Enjoy!

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  14. Replies
    1. Shelby, do watch this movie, Anna is quite fun as far as spy thrillers go. It's just not very original.

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