(Release Info London schedule; July 5th, 2019)
■ Empire Haymarket, 63-65 Haymarket, St. James's, London SW1Y 4RL, United Kingdom)
■ British Board Of Film Clarification, 3 Soho Square, Soho, London W1D 3HD, United Kingdom
Beneath Anna Poliatova’s (Sasha Luss) striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the world’s most feared government assassins.
Anna’s job demands that she hone a multiplicity of identities, but even as she moves from addict to model to numerous disguises, she quietly keeps a tight grip on who she was before she became an operative. The story of a resilient assassin who's used as a pawn but then breaks all the rules to control her own destiny. This film takes place on a more epic, global scale, placing Anna quite literally at the icy-hot center of the tensions between the world’s two superpowers. As Anna moves like a magnetic force between life on the street and on the glam, high-fashion runway, between 'The KGB' and 'The CIA', between two lovers on opposite sides, between loyalty to her mentors and devotion to her most private dreams, she's propelled most of all by an unswerving drive to be truly free. An electrifying thrill ride unfolding with propulsive energy, startling twists and breathtaking action.
Anna is a 'KGB' recruiter, one of many masters she appears to serve, in a world of turbo-charged aggression. What's so intriguing about Anna is that she exudes strength, independence and her own strong, feminine power in every second of the film. Even when she’s manipulating people, Anna’s doing it because she has an agenda and she has a dream. She has many guises, many selves, many ways of transforming, and many ways of surviving. Even as she proves herself a brutally fierce player in the cut-throat world of 'Cold War' spies, Anna is slyly constructing her own game-within-the-game that no one sees coming. Modeling and being an assassin are both just jobs. She’s going to be the best she can be, she’s going to excel, but it's all a means of getting to her own agenda. And nothing is going to stop her, not even the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world. In some ways she resembles characters from 'La Femme Nikita' and 'Leon The Professional'. She manifests a 'POV' relevant to our world right now. "Anna" shows the psyche of a woman who proves as capable of astonishing destruction as refined sophistication.
The character is as seductive and treacherous as any classic 'femme fatale', but who's also a modern woman who refuses to belong to anyone but herself. The film shows how she learns to move with ease and determination through the raging mayhem that surrounds her. Because even though she can be so tough and so icy, her story is also very personal and emotional. Underneath her training as a killer, she's lonely, she's angry and she's fighting for a kind of liberty that seems impossible in her world. She has led many lives, on the streets, as a model, as an agent and a double-agent, but she has never been able to dream of a future that's really her own, which is all she wants. Anna’s life changes again and again as she tries to survive, and she's always able to land on her feet and adapt. She never imagined herself doing photo shoots when she was a drug addict in Moscow, but that's one of the great things about Anna; she's smart, determined and she can learn new things very quickly. She becomes very sought-after in the fashion world because she has something different, which makes it all the stranger that she has this whole other life where she's one of the world’s most merciless assassins. Whether Anna is soaking in the glitzy modeling limelight or carrying out high-stakes hits for 'The KGB', her aim is beyond both of them.
Even after Anna is recruited by a 'KGB' agent who suspects she has the kind of game-playing smarts and skills that could be useful to the government, her new handler scoffs at the idea that Anna will even make it through her first assignment. This is Olga (Helen Mirren), a war-wearied veteran of 'The KGB'. Ultimately, Olga and Anna will become a seemingly invincible team who never fail; even as Anna sees in Olga a dark mirror of who she might become. Olga is a very interesting character. Olga is s gutsy women who has found a way to thrive in a world that offers no quarter. This film is a manifestation of that. Olga is a very, very strong woman who can bring out the best, and the worst, in one another. As Anna’s spymaster, Olga’s single-minded perfectionism begins to rub off on Anna, and Olga begins to do what has never come naturally to her; trust in Anna. At first, Olga is highly skeptical of Anna. Of course, she can see that she's very beautiful, which has it's uses in the spy world, but she doesn’t believe that Anna has all the other qualities you need to survive as an assassin. She really doesn’t believe it until Anna proves it.
As Anna’s story unravels in multiple time frames, and as she obliterates one target after another, she also becomes entangled in several romances that pull her in polarizing directions. Those chasing Anna include 'KGB' agent Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans), his rival 'CIA' agent Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy) and the spirited French model Maude (Lera Abova), though Anna’s fiercely independent heart gives them each a run for their money. It's Alex Tchenkov who first gives Anna a choice between death and the anonymous, controlled life of a state assassin. But as much as he sees Anna as a valuable weapon of the government, He's a man who doesn’t ever give away anything, When you look at him, he could be contemplating where he’s going to take you for dinner or how he’s going to kill you and where he’s going to bury your body. You wouldn’t know either way. Alex has been trained over a long time to show no emotion, to be able to shoot someone from point blank range as if it's nothing. Alex also is drawn to the fiercely independent woman he knows she really is.
At the same time, Tchenkov does have an interior life, if hidden away, mostly seen in his relationship with Anna. He’s not completely cold-hearted, despite his job. As for the sexual chemistry that develops between Alex and Anna, they share a lot under the skin. They’re both a little lost and lonely. Being an assassin is a very solitary job. You constantly find yourself with different name in a different country surrounded by people who are not your friends or your family and you can’t tell anyone any one your secrets. So, in this dark, harsh environment, they're both seeking whatever moments they can of liberation and love and care. Of course, Alex has been in 'The KGB' long enough to know that neither Anna’s story, nor their story together, is likely to have a happy ending, but that's part of his reality. It’s an unconventional romance between them, but they truly need one another. In the world Anna lives in, no one can be trusted, and everyone is a target; to be killed, seduced, turned or manipulated; until she sets out to disrupt that cycle. How she does it's one of the film’s most satisfying pleasures. It seems that Anna is trapped, that she has no choice but to carry out other people’s violent agendas; but Anna never loses sight of her own plan.
With "Anna", Luc Besson returns to the neo-noir style and themes of his early films, but this time with a fresh vision of a 'femme fatale' as a trans-global hit-woman who harbors more power than anyone realizes. Though Besson’s thrillers have been influencing other filmmakers for 3 decades, they continue to have a hypnotic look and feel that's unmistakably Besson’s. Seductively colorful and insistently rhythmic, they take on the feel of pop culture fairytales, mixing pure sensuous enjoyment with the palpable dangers of our real, sometimes alienating, world. His long takes have become a trademark, allowing him to work close-in with the actors and giving them the freedom to dive deep into the scenes without having to re-surface. The alluring Anna Poliatova is plucked from a dingy Russian street market and transformed into one of Paris top models. But much like 'The Matryoshka' nesting dolls Anna once sold, what you get in this breathless thrill-ride of a film defies what you think you see. 'La Femme Nikita', which forever shattered the taboo against female-driven action movies. For the mysterious, if efficiently lethal. There's this very strong feeling of immediacy and the atmosphere is never broken.
The film is inspired by 'The Cold War' spy tensions that were heating up in the early 90s. Those were sinister times in 'The KGB', assassinations were common, and people were disappearing inside and outside Russia if they're considered a threat. The film collects masses of images from 'The Cold War' era focusing equally on the contrasting worlds of deadly serious 'Soviet' operatives and playful, decadent fashion runways at a time when the fame and power of supermodels were surpassing even movie stars. Throughout the film a color code to divide 'East' and 'West'. The Russians are all in browns, beiges and greens and 'The CIA' is all in blue and grey. But when Anna arrives in Paris as a fledgling model, that’s when the film really has a chance to let loose with color and form. Anna’s look is constantly changing so the film creates this new spy-girl that you haven’t seen five minutes before. Distinctive is the operative word for each component of the film’s design. Every color, shape, sound, choreographed move and swoop of the camera has to be part of building towards a climax that thrillingly turns the world so carefully crafted upside down.
This is a story that has layers upon layers, and that you really can’t fully see all that's happening until you get to the end of the story. You get hints here and there of where things are going. But it’s very much like a 'jigsaw' puzzle, where only when the very last piece is put in place do you suddenly see the whole picture. It's a picture of thoughts and feelings at the time. The film is a 'Polaroid' of this moment. And one of the strongest themes in the movie is about trust, which we've lost in our society right now. As for how the story weaves hardcore action through a passionate story of empowerment that also works as an elaborate puzzle. This reflects life, where one minute, things are sweet and then next a storm is breaking. There's action in "Anna", but the film also want audiences to be challenged, so be prepared.