June 21, 2019 | 118 minutes
If “Anna” were made by any other filmmaker, it could be dismissed as little more than a shameless attempt to copy the offbeat and visually stylish action epics of French filmmaker Luc Besson that goes disastrously wrong right from the start and only gets worse as things progress. In fact, “Anna” was written and directed by Besson himself and it still feels like a misfired rehash of his greatest hits. In the wake of the enormous box-office failure of his previous film, the wildly ambitious sci-fi saga “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” it makes a certain amount of sense that he might want to retreat to something a little more familiar as a way of reestablishing his commercial standing, but even long-standing fans of his will find it hard to muster much enthusiasm for this startlingly lazy bit of by-the-numbers hackwork.
The film was released to mixed reviews. The New York Times’ Bilge Ebiri wrote: “Anna is entertainingly put together, but it might be hard to be entertained by it. Last year, the director was accused by a number of women of sexual assault, which he has denied. It’s hard not to be reminded of such matters when watching a film that often turns on seduction and shifting power dynamics in male-female relations. “Anna” can’t live in a vacuum.” The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore highlighted the acting: “Helen Mirren, the film’s first spark of life. Cillian Murphy is as jarring in his role as Mirren — they’re too lively and intelligent to play the film’s color-by-numbers game, and look like they might be working an angle: What if they just keep being the only people worth watching until Besson decides to pivot, making this a Tinker, Tailor-style game of string-pulling spymasters? No such luck. And the Toronto Star’s Peter Howell wrote about Mirren’s performance: “Olga functions as both a serious figure of menace and comic relief. Mirren sheathes her character’s intentions behind a granite visage that suggests what Fran Lebowitz would look like as a Bond villain.”