They always said the spy game was always a dirty one when you watch Red Sparrow it’s a ‘sexy’ one too. Don’t expect an action-packed film, expect more a sexually dialogue driven espionage thriller. One that’s more at home with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, just don’t expect to see George Smiley in high heels and a dress.
In the world of espionage to get one step ahead of your enemy you’ll do anything. In this film based on a novel written by former CIA operative Jason Matthews, the KGB use sexual Prowse. Power to seduce, capture, torture, extract even assassinate.
Jennifer Lawrence will be our ‘Sparrow’ but looking back at her recent film choices is she suffering from post franchise fatigue, like in the way Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) has? Life is hard outside the safety of the franchise and her choices have been somewhat questionable. Passengers which was meant to be a sci-fi romance turns into a creepy stalker film in space. Mother! (we loved) was hated and panned by mainstream media.
In this one, she reunites with her namesake Francis Lawrence who made 3 The Hunger Games films and knows how to push her buttons. He once again pushes his lead actress boundaries, sometimes into uncomfortable nasty moments. As regarding the previous 2 films, Lawrence fairs better here, but it’s a film with its faults.
In Red Sparrow, Lawrence plays Dominika a prima ballerina with a promising career dancing at the Bolshoi. Suddenly her career is cut short, thanks to a horrific ‘accident’ (or were it an accident?).6 months later we see her living in a small flat with her poorly mother (Joely Richardson). When her health insurance ended she’s forced to find a way to pay off her mother’s care. Her high rank (creepy) government official uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) steps in with an offer.
With no idea what the ‘job offer’ may curtail, Dominika reluctantly accepts the offer. She quickly learns she is been used as a ‘Honeytrap’to blackmail/extract info from a Russian businessman. The job becomes a living hell for her with her witnessing the death of her target. Instead of killing her off Vanya decides to enroll her in the School Of Sparrows. A school for elite agents trained to use their sexuality to lure in targets.
Her first ‘Sparrow’ role Dominika heads to Hungary to snare and seduce CIA Agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). Her task is to extract the name of the high ranking Russian Official role he was about to meet in Moscow. Can she the get the name she requires or will things get even more complicated?
Red Sparrow is a bold effort. For some, it will be a hard watch for some due to the graphic nature of some of the scenes. The Sparrow school (or ‘Whore School’ as Dominika calls it) is ran by Matron (played sadistically outstanding by Charlotte Rampling), a dispassionate woman who gives disapproval to her and anyone that crosses her path. Making them perform sexual acts with each other as well as strangers. The manipulated by watching S&M Porn and reminded their bodies are ‘weapons that belong to the state’.
What really works in Red Sparrow is when the powers to be take away the power of choice. When you find yourself in desperation which Dominika finds herself in. After when she’s ‘broken’ she is offered several chances to leave the life of the sparrow life, she refuses. A brutal shower scene at the Bolshoi illustrates Dominika’s mindset and thirst for revenge.
Apart from the film been about 30- to 40 minutes too long, the film suffers from pacing issues. Ironically the strong point of Red Sparrow might be it’s winning grace, the gratuitous sex, and violence. A curiosity to see where things go and how far the film was willing to push the boat. There are some great scenes with a tense standout scene in London which sees the demise of a character. If you enjoy Jennifer Lawrence playing characters that are forced into a life of violence thanks to society, you might just dig this one. Just don’t laugh at her Russian accent.
Paul Devine | [rating=3]
Crime, Thriller | USA, 2018 | 15 | 9th July 2018 (UK)| Blu-ray, DVD | 20th Century Fox Puctures | Dir.Francis Lawrence | Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Mary Louise Parker