Anna seems like the kind of movie Luc Besson would write but let one of his flunkies direct. It’s all the better for having Besson’s steady hand to ensure none of its bonkers Frenchness gets compromised. It’s basically La Femme Nikita again with all Besson’s new modern toys, though it’s set in the same era.
The time jumps alone are magnificently absurd. Anna begins in 1985, then jumps five years later, specifically November 1990. Then it jumps back three years earlier. So we can assume we’re in 1987. Anna makes you do math. When it returns to 1990 it still says “3 Years Later” in case you forgot. Then it goes six months earlier, so that must be May of 1990. There are more flashbacks up to the very end.
The music embraces the period setting too, with Technotronic on the soundtrack and INXS scoring a montage of shooting and modeling. Anna’s photographer in Milan is totally doing an Austin Powers photo shoot, but with a straight face.
Along with all the time jumps come double, triple, quadruple crosses and counting. Maintaining all of those covers leads to some absurd solutions. Anna (Sasha Luss) calls herself a Russian doll and Besson really leans into that metaphor of all her hidden identities. He pushes them to extremes that generic spy movies won’t go.
Even though we learn Anna’s story out of chronological order, Anna is empowered even before she’s recruited by Alex (Luke Evans). She takes the power from his offer, so even though she ends up becoming an agent, she has more agency than Nikita could have in her dire straits.
Olga (Helen Mirren) even gives Anna a Nikita test on her first mission to see if she can improvise when things don’t go according to plan. Yes. Yes, she can. Anna’s restaurant fight is very John Wick and reason enough to see the film. A later fight scene is filmed from under a gate that is lowering down, such an elegant way to clearly frame the battle and demonstrate the stakes that she has to finish fighting before it closes.
There’s a car chase in Paris that’s fine and made me realize how I take it for granted that Luc Besson can shoot a car chase on Paris streets. The city will let Besson close blocks. They won’t do that for everyone so I should appreciate what a thrill it is to see a competent action sequence in such a lavish location.
Anna and Alex fall in love, and Anne also romances Maude (Lera Abova), a model friend from an undercover modeling assignment. How progressive it is to have a bisexual action hero with no comment. It’s just accepted. I know Atomic Blonde did it too but the point is we’re getting there to where action heroes won’t have to be heteronormative. Anna’s not monogamous. I mean, this is still a French movie.
Anna is nothing Luc Besson hasn’t done before, but he does what he does well. It’s a strong vehicle for Luss to be an action hero, and if you’re going to do a tried and true genre, you might as well let Luc Besson go bananas with it.