Release Date(s)2019 (September 24, 2019)
Studio(s)EuropaCorp/TF1/BRON/Hercules (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
Anna (Sasha Luss) is a young Russian woman who escapes a life of drugs and poverty thanks to the intervention of a mysterious man (Luke Evans) who kills her abusive boyfriend. Soon enough, Anna has a new life in Paris as a fashion model, where she commands top dollar, is in high demand by all the best photographers, and has a model girlfriend of her own. But Anna has other sides too—identities within identities—one of which is an assassin for the KGB under the guidance of a handler named Olga (Helen Mirren). It’s in this role that Anna attracts the attention of a CIA agent (Cillian Murphy) who’s hoping to settle and old score with Moscow. But her lifestyle is not only difficult, it has a low survival rate, so Anna must outsmart the all to survive.
Now, if any of that sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it all before. Anna is… let’s call it an interesting film. It’s not bad really; the glossy production is competently directed, with deft editing, lovely Thierry Arbogast cinematography, and a solid Eric Serra score. The performances are all decent too, including Luss (a newcomer) in the title role. The film is just not nearly as clever as it’s trying to be. Sure, there are some nice twists of the usual plans within plans variety. But Anna also manages to employ nearly every cliché in the genre (the femme fatale, the honey pot, senior agents manipulated with sex, the double and triple cross, even a Russian nesting doll metaphor). And this basic plot has been done better on multiple occasions, most recently by Red Sparrow (reviewed here—which, for all its faults, takes more time to credibly build up its ingénue-turned-assassin) as well as Atomic Blonde, and even by Besson himself with La Femme Nikita.
Anna was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (3.4 and 2.8K) using Arri Alexa cameras and Leitz Summicron-C and Fujinon Alura lenses. It was finished as a native 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 “scope” ratio, upsampled for its Ultra HD release and graded for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are available). The resulting image features good overall detail and modestly refined texturing. Shadows are deep-ish, if a bit lacking in detail, while highlights are strong but not overpowering. Colors are accurate and have a measure of added nuance thanks to the wider gamut. It’s a nice looking UHD image with a natural quality, though not especially a standout.
English audio is available in a Dolby Atmos mix that’s mostly engaging, with full-sounding mids, nice low end, and a medium-wide soundstage. Surround use is largely atmospheric, though it begins to kick in more during set pieces and it serves Serra’s score especially well. The height channels are mostly employed to complete the sonic environment overhead, but there are a couple moments of gun play (especially during Anna’s escape from the Kremlin in chapter 13) during which they offer a bit more lively engagement. Additional options include English Descriptive Audio and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subs available in English SDH and Spanish.
The 4K Ultra HD disc (as well as the enclosed movie Blu-ray) includes the following extras in HD:
- Dressing a Doll: The Costumes of Anna (8:06)
- Anatomy of a Scene: The Restaurant Fight (6:41)
- Unnesting a Russian Doll: Making Anna (13:57)
- Constructing the Car Chase (5:40)
Besson, Luss, and the other key cast and production members are interviewed throughout. You get some insights on the characters and a couple of different aspects of the production. It’s not a lot, though it is decent material. But as you watch, it’s abundantly clear that Besson himself thinks the story is more ingenious than it actually is. Apparently, he hasn’t kept up with the genre. Note that the Blu-ray includes the same extras plus a few preview trailers (for other films but not this one) and there’s a Digital Copy code in the packaging.
With Anna, Besson reminds one a bit of late era Stanley Kubrick, who would come up with an interesting project idea and work on it for years, only to have others release similar films before his own. The simple fact is that many filmmakers have followed Besson into sexy cinematic assassin territory and it’s well past time for him to move beyond it and break new ground. Anna is a modestly entertaining film and worth a couple of hours your time. Just don’t expect any ground-breaking here.
- Bill Hunt