Netflix Stylish Assassin Movie Keeps You Reeling With One Betrayal After Another

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

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If you’re interested in a brainy, engaging take on the assassin movie genre, you could do much worse than streaming Anna; the Luc Besson-directed hitwoman hit on Netflix. There’s a good reason the title has risen to the top (number one!) of the streaming platform’s charts—it provides a fresh yet enjoyable familiar espionage drama ripe with twists, betrayals, and many assassinations.

Besson’s deft hand, especially when crafting stylish action films, does wonders in this movie; it encapsulates a high-octane narrative richly embedded in an international espionage, Cold War context. 

Anna On Netflix

After all, what cultural climate or long-term conflict could serve the spy-assassin genre better than the Cold War? Indeed, Anna revels in it—to significant effect. Its heroine, Anna Poliatova, is a beautiful, young Russian woman enduring a bleak existence engaged in a cycle of pitiless domestic abuse.

But her life takes a dramatic and exciting turn when a KGB operative, Alex, recognizes her potential and recruits her as an asset to the intelligence agency. 

After a year of rigorous training, the recruit is initiated: the world of espionage welcomes her, through her Virgil-leading-Dante character, Olga, her KGB handler. Olga assures the new operative that she’ll enjoy the freedom she’s longed for–but only after five years of service. 

A Talented Assassin

Of course, this promise proves empty when a new, nefarious KGB director, Vassiliev, decides all former agents are too much of a liability—to be left alive.

Thus, Anna is plunged into a life she can neither escape nor reject, left with no choice but to assume a dual identity as a fashion model in Paris.

Fortunately for KGB, her cover identity enables her to infiltrate VIP areas and access high-profile targets; no one suspects the gorgeous model once the bodies begin to drop. 

Of course, a complex situation could and should only be complexified further, in any spy-assassin film worth its salt. The CIA bursts onto the scene and, having uncovered her true identity, coerce our heroine into becoming a double agent.

Her CIA handler, Leonard Miller, forces her to thread a dangerous path—all the while balancing her loyalties and striving to secure her freedom. Her new mission assigned by the CIA, to assassinate Vassiliev, might accomplish just that. 

Sasha Luss Shines In Anna

The film’s cast certainly explains part of its success. As Anna, Sasha Luss shines, offering an engaging mixture of vulnerability and lethal prowess; we both sympathize with and fear her. The supporting cast, too, does wonders, particularly the always-terrific Helen Mirren as KGB handler Olga and Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer himself, as CIA handler Leonard. 

Besson’s direction is bold, original, dynamic, and compelling. Audiences relished the filmmaker’s return to form, whose sequences and sensibility in this film harken back to Besson’s iconic assassin movies, The Professional and La Femme Nikita. 

Unique Look And Structure

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His aesthetic in this film quintessentially reflects his well-known cinematic style, characterized by visual elegance, robust action, and the prominence of the femme-fatale archetype. 

Anna’s unique non-linear narrative structure is also a noticeable directorial feature, unfolding through flashbacks and flash-forwards. Combined with impressive action choreography comprising visually stunning and tightly executed sequences, the effect is singular. 

The film’s pulse-pounding soundtrack by Éric Serra is riveting and compliments the fast-paced action. Outdoor shots across Paris and Moscow also lend the movie a credible atmosphere. 

Lukewarm Initial Reception

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The film initially debuted in 2019 and only captured a box office return of $31 million against a budget of $30 million. It also met with mixed reviews, with critics split over its narrative structure and some considering the screenplay too generic.

That said, the movie enjoys a B+ CinemaScore and, to be frank, remains a solid choice for a streaming title—hence its status at the top Netflix film. 

Anna Streaming On Netflix

anna netflix

While many understandably compare Anna to Besson’s earlier works and movies like Red Sparrow, it’s worth noting how effectively the movie conveys its heroine’s emotional and societal reality: her striving for freedom and abuse by a brutal spouse.

This separates it meaningfully from another recent Netflix assassin film, The Killer, which was problematically cold and emotionless and offered nothing for the audience to grab onto, character-wise.

The film also delivers surprising narrative twists (no spoilers here), distinguishing itself from even Besson’s own Nikita by providing audiences with unexpected plot points. 

For a rollicking good time, and a memorable, innovative addition to the spy-assassin film library, stream Anna today.