Anna 4K Ultra HD
Luc Besson returns to the female assassin genre with Anna, now out on 4K Ultra HD! Here's our review!
A young woman (Sasha Luss) is recruited by the KGB to become a dangerous assassin while working as one of Europe’s top supermodels. Also stars Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, and Cillian Murphy. Written and directed by Luc Besson.
Legendary filmmaker Luc Besson’s filmography is anything but the standard Hollywood fare. From The Professional to The Fifth Element to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, he prides himself on creating unique films with a strong visual flair.
For his latest film, Anna, Besson decided to revisit the themes of one of his classics: La Femme Nikita. Anna isn’t a remake or a sequel, but it seems Besson wanted to revisit the “female assassin” genre that he single-handedly created with Nikita, the film that made him an international sensation. Anna’s premise is almost identical: a woman with a criminal background is given the chance to become a assassin/spy, only to find the world of espionage a bit more complicated.
For Anna, Besson sets the film against the backdrop of the battle between the KGB and the CIA in the waning days of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Anna becomes a KGB agent, all while working as a fashion model in Europe.
It sounds like a ridiculous premise, but Besson somehow manages to make it all seem plausible. Sasha Luss (Valerian) plays Anna, and she certainly pulls off the supermodel look. She also does a fairly credible job with the action - she’s fantastic in the film’s signature scene, a bloody shootout in a Paris restaurant.
As you might expect, the film excels in its action scenes, and Besson does a fantastic job of capturing the Cold War espionage feel. The action, at times, is bloody and brutal, delivered with Besson’s signature visual flair.
While Sasha Luss does a mostly effective job handling the action and stunts, she doesn’t quite have the acting range to pull off the emotional gravity of the role. She certainly isn’t helped by some clunky dialogue; in one scene, she is asked to deliver some deep observations on life while under the influence and facing death. It feels too forced, and few actors could have pulled it off with any authenticity.
English is not Luss’ native tongue, but if you watch the special features, she discusses how she worked to lose her accent and sound “American.” For the film, however, she has to bring a bit of that accent back, and yet, her delivery is a bit flat, especially alongside her more experienced co-stars. When asked to perform a monologue, her performance often lacks emotional depth.
With the veteran actors around her, Luss’ performance seems one-dimensional. You have to fault Besson for this: a writer shouldn’t expect an inexperienced actor to deliver such heavy-handed dialogue. As a director, he should have worked with his actor to deliver a more emotional performance. Luss has her moments where her performance connects, so a few extra takes with Besson might have helped. In her interviews, Luss' personality is easily seen. It's a side you rarely see in the film, and it would have helped for Besson to bring that out a bit.
The rest of the cast does an admirable job. Helen Mirren is surprisingly good, adding a bit of panache to her role as Anna’s KGB boss. Cillian Murphy plays a smarmy CIA agent and Luke Evans is solid as Anna’s KGB handler.
Besson packs the spy tale with a number of plot twists, but felt the need to bury each twist under an immediate flashback that explains what happened. It works the first couple of times, but I lost count of how many times it was pulled off in this film. It became a bit annoying.
While Anna doesn’t feel completely original, it does navigate familiar territory well. It’s surprisingly entertaining and the plot twists are effective. If you liked La Femme Nikita, you’ll enjoy this roller coster ride through the genre. It doesn’t rise to the heights of that film, but it’s entertaining on its own merits. Sasha Luss was a bit out of her depth in her first leading role, but she is a striking presence and had some fantastic fight scenes.
Anna is a solid actioner wrapped inside a Cold War spy thriller, right down to the plot-twist ending involving the CIA and KGB. Besson’s stylized direction, and a strong supporting cast, make it better than it should have been.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Anna isn’t exactly a visual effects extravaganza, so there aren’t many eye popping visuals here. However, the 4K disc does an impressive job of presenting fine detail and shadow. The film’s settings vary wildly, between low-light scenes set indoors and brightly-lit fashion shoots. The darker indoor scenes show a solid balance between grays and blacks, while the photo shoots show some pop in the reds.
The HDR shows some nice depth in the color palette, and the Dolby Vision ensured each scene received its optimal presentation. Sasha Luss’ sky-blue eyes absolutely jump off the screen. There is some light grain in the image, and a few scenes seem a bit soft in the focus, but overall, this is a well-done transfer.
Anna’s video presentation may not be reference material for the format, but it provides a rich, textured image with a deep range in color.
The Dolby Atmos mix provides some punch during the action scenes, and excellent clarity during the dialogue. Eric Serra’s excellent score gets proper prominence when necessary, and there’s good distribution throughout the channels, especially during the car chase scene, with some nice surround effect.
Bonus features are limited to some featurettes, but they do include interviews with Luc Besson and the entire cast. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes footage as well.
The extras included on the 4K disc (as well as the Blu-ray) are as follows:
“Dressing a Doll: The Costumes of Anna” featurette. Costume Designer Olivier Beriot discusses how the film’s time period (the early 1990s) influenced his choices in wardrobe. The contrast between the colorful fashion world and the drab, desaturated look of the KGB is explored. Running Time: 8:06
“Anatomy of a Scene: The Restaurant Fight” featurette. Writer/director Luc Besson and Sasha Luss both describe their experiences filming the fantastic restaurant shootout. Behind-the-scenes footage of Luss training for the scene is included. Running Time: 6:41
“Unnesting a Russian Doll: Making Anna” featurette. Luc Besson and the cast discuss the making of the film in a series of interviews interspersed with behind-the-scenes clips. Running Time: 13:57
“Constructing the Car Chase” featurette. The film’s frenetic car chase through Belgrade is detailed here, and includes footage from the set which shows how car-mounted cameras captured the action. Besson and the film’s stunt coordinator are interviewed. Running Time: 5:40
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film is included. Lionsgate codes are not compatible with Movies Anywhere, but do work with services including VUDU, FandangoNow, and iTunes. Before redeeming your code, verify that your preferred digital service will redeem a 4K version of the film. All compatible services will eventually offer a 4K version, but it is not always available on the release date. 4kSheet.com provides an excellent list of when 4K digital versions become available from the major services.
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Running Time: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “Dressing a Doll: The Costumes of Anna” featurette; “Anatomy of a Scene: The Restaurant Fight” featurette; “Unnesting a Russian Doll: Making Anna” featurette; “Constructing the Car Chase” featurette; Digital Copy.
Label: Summit (Lionsgate)