REVIEW: ‘Anna’ doesn’t reinvent spy genre wheel, but still entertains

There’s been a few movies over the last several years with women super spies, such as “Salt,” “Haywire,” “Atomic Blonde” and “Red Sparrow.” The latest flick in the sub-genre, “Anna,” doesn’t push the story boundaries too far from those, but overall, it may be the best one, or at least the most fun.

The picture, directed by Luc Besson, stars Sasha Luss in the titular role. Anna is a young woman who had some experience in Russian military training and as a result, is eventually recruited into the KGB.

As an agent, Anna becomes a fierce assassin, able to get even some of the most dangerous jobs done. Her latest work is especially, difficult, though, as it includes other adversarial international agencies.

From a story perspective “Anna” isn’t too terribly shocking, but it does throw in enough double crosses and backstabbings to keep one’s interest in more than just the action on screen. The bigger factor for a person’s enjoyment though comes in how the movie deals with time.

When secrets are revealed, the film usually flashes back to how things were set up. This was used maybe one too many times in the picture, but not to the point where it overstays its welcome. Plus, it allows for a faster pace, as the audience are engaged by the action first, and then the situation’s background is established. Again, a person’s own tolerance to this trope is an important, individual factor to one’s own enjoyment. 

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Sasha Luss in “Anna.” Courtesy EuropaCorp and Summit Entertainment.

Where the flick really hits its stride, though, is its entertainment value. Besson and his crews have always been solid when directing action and thrilling sequences, this is no different. There’s an especially good fight scene in the movie taking place at an upscale restaurant. It’s intense, brutal and lasts quite a while.

In terms of protagonists, Anna can seem little bit too blank at times. The issue isn’t a lack of motivation, though, but rather the character being under-written in terms of personality. In fairness, Luss does what she can with the role, especially in showing the character’s desperation in her situation, since Anna was basically forced into the KGB at gunpoint.

Stealing the show in every scene, though, is Oscar winner Helen Mirren as Anna’s no B.S. having commanding KGB officer Olga. The commander knows what her job is and she ruthlessly wants missions to get done. At the same time, though, the character doesn’t exactly buy into her government’s propaganda and is mostly just straightforward and honest with the reality of the world, very rarely holding her tongue and often making quips. Mirren does great work portraying this, really nailing the sort of character who just gets straight to the point.

The cast of “Anna” is pretty well rounded out with character actors Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy, too.

For the most part, “Anna” is a fairly standard spy movie entry, yet its good action and an awesome character portrayed by Mirren help make it worth a watch. 3.0 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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