Aug 1, 2014


An interesting future promises a specialized group of individuals called "memory detectives" who possess the strange ability to enter memories of their subjects. Much like psychics, these detectives, hailing from a company called Mindscape, are used in investigations on behalf of law enforcement to search memories of the repressed or the suspect to determine absolute truth. 

John Washington (Mark Strong, Zero Dark Thirty) plays one of these detectives, whose memory-entering abilities are high-watermark. Working under the gentle persuasion of his mentor, Sebastian (Brian Cox, Manhunter), John is tasked with investigating a teenage girl named Anna (Taissa Farmiga, that "American Horror Story" nonsense), who has opted to stop eating following a traumatic event, to determine if the girl is a genuine victim...or a sociopath with a penchant for mind games. 

Soon after meeting her and entering her memories for the first time, which include her witness to a pair of dysfunctional parents immersing in alcoholism, abuse, and betrayal, John gets sucked into a mystery involving a nasty accident at Anna's house - her father is convinced Anna is responsible and wants to commit her to an institution, but Anna begs John to look beyond the accusations against her and search for the real truth.

Anna has an interesting premise and is competently handled. Despite being a mishmash of "Millennium," The Cell, Inception, and the tiniest bit of Lolita, for extra hot/wrongness, it all comes off as rather fresh and unique. It's almost surreal watching Strong stand by in Anna's collection of memories and bearing witness to the events as they unfold in her mind, and then later watching him interact with characters and ask them questions that have directly to do with the memories he experienced quite second-hand.

Director Jorge Dorado shines in his first feature film and first spoken-English project, and he's collected a classy cast for the honor. Mark Strong doesn't often carry the lead role, and his turn as John makes you wonder why. He's pretty great, in this and in everything he does. Brian Cox's screen time is unfortunately limited, but when he's on screen, he does his Brian Cox thing, which is: be awesome. Realistically, though, this is Taissa Farmiga's show. Being that she's someone you're not supposed to fully trust, she does a great job of riding that line between victim and psycho.

Like many other films involving a haunted protagonist, Strong's insistence on helping Anna has less to do with his personal involvement with her (at least at first) and more to do with the tragedy that seems to have befallen someone very close to him, glimpses of which we're provided, and only fleetingly at first until the film approaches its conclusion. Yeah, the whole "saving a stranger = saving my child/wife/whomever" has been done before, but like I always say: do something a hundred times and I'm cool with it, so long as you do it well. Dorado and Strong do it quite well.

The ending will likely generate controversy among its viewers. Many will ask, "That's it?" But there's more going on than some cheap twist out of left field. It's less about "how?" and more about "why?" Both Anna and Anna ask that age-old question: What is reality? Are memories of the mind real? They are, after all, only as accurate as the mind in which they exist is stable. Are they more or less real if they exist within a sound mind versus one of a sociopath, or a victim repressing and/or manipulating them to make them more bearable? And if memory has the power to obscure the truth, then what is truth?

And, simply put, what good is it?

Anna hits video August 5.

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