Movie Review: “Anna” showcases Mark Strong’s non-bad guy side

ImageMark Strong is such a great Brit-villain (“Sherlock Holmes,””Kick-Ass”) that
he landed a part in that clever bad-guys-drive-Jaguars commercial that’s been
making the rounds since the Super Bowl.
So he’s cast against type as the hero of “Anna,” a solid if unsurprising
thriller about a “memory detective” on a tricky case.
“Mindscape” is the name of the agency that uses John Washington (Strong). In
the not-so-distant future, psychics are taken seriously because of their ability
to mind-meld with subjects and wander through their memories with them. Their
work is commonplace enough to be accepted by the courts.
John, a psychic who has suffered the loss of his wife, is eased back into the
work by a boss (Brian Cox) with the case of a rich teen (Taissa Farmiga) who has
stopped eating. John revisits her memories with her and solves that problem in a
flash. But Anna is a compelling subject, flirtatious, clever and with stories
about a nightmarish life with mom and stepdad.
“I’m not a sociopath,” she purrs, “just smart enough to think like one.”</P>
John listens to Anna’s pleas, “You’re all I have.” And down the rabbit hole
of her memory he goes — from one of the many boarding schools she quit on into
the more distant past.
Is she manipulating her memories and his experience of them? Are her parents
(Saskia Reeves, Richard Dillane) trying to keep her quiet?
Is John’s boss in on it? They cast Brian Cox in the part, and let’s face it,
Brian Cox probably drives a Jaguar.
First-time director Jorge Dorado learned his chops on the sets of movies by
Guillermo del Toro and Pedro Almodovar, and he wrings as much suspense out of
the memory flashbacks as he can. “Anna” was originally titled “Mindscape” and
has a hint of such earlier films as “Dreamscape” and even TV’s “The Mentalist”
about it. Anna is under constant surveillance, but those cameras have many blind
spots that conveniently mesh with “accidents” that happen on the estate where
she lives.
Strong is a compelling lead, and is subtle enough to get across John’s rising
paranoia without chewing the scenery.
But what little suspense the script confures up is frittered away in the
performances, particularly young Miss Farmiga’s. The younger sister of the
formidable Vera Farmiga gives flat, rushed and unconvincing line readings,
especially in her paragraph-long, exposition-packed monologues.
Is that by design? Is this a clever teen “acting” to manipulate her memory
detective?
The actress should be better at masking that, if that’s the case. And if it
isn’t, she should be just…better.
Image
MPAA Rating: R for nude sexual images
Cast: Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Brian Cox
Credits: Directed by Jorge Dorado, written by Guy Holmes and Martha Holmes. A
Vertical Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:38

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