“Anyone who enjoys sci-fi will undoubtedly take pleasure in watching Jorge Dorado’s feature debut.”

by Nav Qateel

From Spanish director, Jorge Dorado, Anna may not be as ambitious in scale or budget as Christopher Nolan’s $160 million Inception, however, the end result is about as effective. It may appear less so to those of you who are overly-familiar with the genre, thanks to a spate of similar movies a few years back, but I never tire with sci-fi films of this quality when they’re put together so skillfully. The cast are predominantly British, with the starring roles split between Mark Strong, who most will remember from playing the bad guy in Kick-Ass, and the hugely talented Taissa Farmiga, from the brilliantly twisted American Horror Story.

First-time feature director Dorado, is known for his short filmmaking and as assistant director to the likes of Pedro Almodóvar on the Oscar-winning Talk to Her, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, to name only a couple. Originally titled Mindscape, Anna has some nice cinematography from Óscar Faura (The Orphanage), along with a wonderful score by Lucas Vidal (Fast & Furious 6), both of which help elevate the material and keep us focused on the story.

Anna (Farmiga) is a 16-year-old girl from a very wealthy family, who hasn’t eaten in a week. Her worried mother and stepfather call in the help of a specialist, John (Strong), who has skills that allow him to go inside someone’s memories and try to find any underlying problems. Anna is an unusually clever girl with an extremely high IQ, but trouble seems to follow her around, and when John starts looking into her head using the ‘Mindscape’ software, he begins to uncover a trail leading to secrets and lies, but trying to sort fact from fiction is no easy task. John ends up deep in a mystery and he may be out of his depth.

The ‘Mindscape’ programme is a new technology that allows the user to watch someone in their own memories. The Mindscape user can see everything that’s happening within that memory as if they’re standing there with them but the patient can’t see the user and they just go through the motions as before. Because the Mindscape technology is still relatively new, the government doesn’t officially recognise its use. Interestingly, the Mindscape programme is almost identical to the D.C. Mini from the Japanese Anime Paprika, except using the D.C. Mini allows the therapist to interact with the patient. One wonders if the writers were influenced in any way by Satoshi Kon’s beautiful animation.

Directed by
Jorge Dorado
Indira Varma, Taissa Farmiga, Mark Strong, Brian Cox
Release Date
6 June 2014
Nav’s Grade: B

Mark Strong plays John, a man who recently lost his wife and baby and hasn’t been able to work due to his depression. This can be paralleled with DiCaprio’s Inception character, Cobb, who suffered a similar tragedy. He’s running low on funds and finds himself asking his boss, Sebastian (Brian Cox, The Ring) to put him to work on Mindscape. Sebastian is initially reluctant to have John doing anything laborious, however, he gives him an old case he himself worked on in the past. It also turns out John’s dead wife’s name was the same as the case he’ll be working on, Anna. Cox’s part was fairly small but his character was a key player in the story as Sebastian is also dragged into the mystery.

Taissa Farmiga has surprisingly few film credits, having only started acting in 2011 after big sister Vera persuaded her to play her younger self in Vera’s directorial debut, Higher Ground–the only work of Taissa’s I haven’t seen–however, when you consider Anna is the actresses fourth movie, you begin to realise how much potential this young actor has. Taissa’s Anna character is initially a troubled teen, who appears to have chosen her friends unwisely. Moreover, after befriending the withdrawn and bullied Mousey, played by Jessica Barden (Hanna), we witness Anna quickly ditch Mousey to please the more popular girls.

John and Anna work together using Mindscape, with Anna showing unusual interest in the operation of its inner workings. When John first meets Anna, who is kept in a locked room under 24-hour video surveillance, Anna gives a demonstration of her skill by speaking John’s words at the exact time John is uttering them. It’s also clear Anna isn’t quite what she seems, as we’re given red herrings and false clues. After using Mindscape for the first time on Anna, John begins seeing a strange man (Noah Taylor, Game of Thrones‘ Locke) appearing at different times as if observing him, and John also starts glimpsing Anna unexpectedly, who shouldn’t be able to get out of her room. Is John hallucinating? Is he being led by the nose? What is Anna really up to? Who is telling the truth?

There’s certainly a hint of déjà vu from Anna, bringing to mind some slightly older contemporaries, such as Inception, Timecrimes, Source Code, and films of that ilk. However, anyone who enjoys sci-fi will undoubtedly take pleasure in watching Jorge Dorado’s feature debut. The film moves along at a good pace, with Dorado wasting no scenes on simple padding, and the actors also do a convincing job. The only reason I can think Anna may not do so well at the box office, could be it’s not been long enough since everyone saw the last lot of film’s of this genre, but one would hope folk will give this splendid little movie a chance, because in my opinion, it’s well worth seeing.