Anna: Is the 2019 Thriller Based on a True Story?

Luc Besson’s 2019 action thriller feature, ‘Anna’ explores the convoluted world of secret agents and the dangerous lives they live. The film follows the titular character, a young and formidable Russian woman who is offered a new life in Paris as a model, but under her beauty lies a dangerous secret: she is a KGB agent. The Russian agency has turned her into a lethal killing machine and one of the top assassins in the world, but she wants to get away from it all, as she is offered an opportunity by the CIA. Anna must now find a way to get out without being killed. The incorporation of real-life intelligence agencies, such as the KGB and CIA, in the narrative makes the viewers intrigued to learn more about the film’s origin.

Anna: Luc Besson’s Fictional KGB Spy

Written and directed by Luc Besson, the film is entirely fictitious and features a narrative straight from the director’s ideas; however, in reality, Anna’s story doesn’t seem too far from the real-life tale of Anna Chapman. This Russian ex-spy posed as a model in the US. Born Anna Vasilyevna Kushchenko, she married a British citizen to avail citizenship. Little did her husband know that he was marrying a covert agent for the Russian Federation’s external intelligence agency, the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki or SVR. 5 years into their marriage, they sought to get a divorce, and a few years later, Anna moved to the US.

After many years of snooping around as a Russian agent, the American authorities caught on to her act and arrested her in 2009. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy as an agent of a foreign government. The very next year, in 2010, as part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia, she was deported back to Russia, where she remains. Although Anna Chapman is vastly different from the Anna we see in this action thriller, one could find resemblances between the two stories, with the most significant parallel being the decision of the fictional as well as real Anna to disguise herself as a fashion model in a foreign land and entering into a relationship with a citizen of the country.

Furthermore, the film features numerous tropes of the action spy genre reminiscent of Besson’s previous and arguably most famous feature, ‘La Femme Nikita’ from 1990. Many could believe that ‘Anna’ is a modernized and rehashed version of Besson’s acclaimed 90s success, ‘La Femme Nikita,’ considering the expertise he had gained from that film has definitely rubbed off on ‘Anna.’ The two action thrillers share similarities in the basic narrative. ‘La Femme Nikita’ features an engaging story revolving around a professional spy and assassin who lives an undercover life, which one could speculate served as an inspiration for the 2019 film.

With ‘Anna,’ Besson created a feature that dives deep into the twisted lives of double agents and ends with an unexpected outcome one would least anticipate. Within these two features, the leads, Nikita and Anna, live essentially two separate lives and must keep their secret or suffer dire consequences. In addition to this, Besson’s admiration for strong female leads is not a secret, as we’ve come to see in several of his features such as ‘Lucy,’ ‘La Femme Nikita,’ ‘The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc,’ and ‘Angel-A.’

‘Anna’ revolves around the strong and dedicated titular character while also exploring her timid side. Her life is not without conflict as she is subjected to a traumatizing past, which proves to be a gateway point into her life as an agent. All Anna desires from the very start is a stable life without turmoil. Glimmers of these narrative features can be traced back to Besson’s ‘Lucy’ where a seemingly harmless girl falls into trouble with the wrong people. One can draw resemblances between the two lead characters here as well. Elements of this can also be found in Besson’s films ‘La Femme Nikita’ and ‘Angel-A.’ Both, albeit possessing stark differences, explore strong female leads who have a completely unique set of problems.

While Besson’s list of films featuring extraordinary female characters is long, he adds a layer of agency and profoundness with each new character, a trend that ‘Anna’ seamlessly continues. To reiterate, ‘Anna’ may not be based on a true story, but Besson exercises his unique filmmaking style and infuses it with realistic elements to make it a thrilling tale. Its thematic depth allows it to be a standout film within espionage thrillers. The film is not only known for its exciting action sequences but also for its depiction of a strong female lead on a deeper level. The fictitious tale of ‘Anna’ showcases Luc Besson’s story-telling skills, drafting a compelling tale that intrigues folks while demonstrating an experienced technique of cinematic depiction.

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