20 July 2024

Film Review – Red Sparrow (2018)

The trajectory of Jennifer Lawrence‘s career has been nothing short of astronomical in the short few years since her big-screen breakthrough in 2010’s miraculous Winter’s Bone. Since then Oscars, box-office bonanzas, Hunger Games and lots of blue paint have been the order of the day but with her latest endeavour, taut spy thriller Red Sparrow, Lawrence enters a new phase of her career with her most mature and striking performance yet.

Here, she stars as Dominika, a young Russian ballet dancer at the Bolshoi hoping to make a splash as a prima ballerina But after suffering a career-ending injury on stage, she is forced to leave and struggles to make ends meet while she cares for both herself and her mother (Joely Richardson). Her uncle (Schoenaerts) a military man dedicated to his country, offers her a route out of her quandary and into an elite army camp that trains young adults to become weapons – or, in their terms, Sparrows. Soon enough, she is thrust into the world of espionage across both sides of the globe and eventually grabs the attention of undercover US operative (Edgerton) who sees her as both potential enemy and ally.

In easily one of her best and most mature performances of her still fledgling career, Lawrence is superb, throwing herself fully into the role and the world that surrounds it with grace and aplomb. She’s been better dramatically than she is here (though she’s still pretty damn great) but rarely has she stepped so far out of her comfort zone as much as she does here but she relishes the challenge, giving great weight and complexity to the film. Many will point to Silver Linings Playbook or American Hustle as her biggest highlights but this one isn’t far behind.

But while Lawrence and company are on great form across the board, be it Schoenaerts smarmy turn, Edgerton’s usual excellence and Charlotte Rampling‘s stoic turn as Dominika’s trainer, it’s not quite enough to give the film a truly glowing review as it’s lacking in other departments.

Director Lawrence, who has made good (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and bad (Constantine) does a good job in balancing tone and story whilst taking great pride in shooting in real locations, as well as keeping the action tight but the film gets bogged down in too much exposition and overly elaborate chitter-chatter that it loses a lot of its thrust in its overly-generous 2 1/2 hour runtime. A more stringent edit would have elevated the film much more but as it is, it’s hard to overlook.

While there is plenty to admire about Red Sparrow, not least Jennifer Lawrence’s towering performance, the films over-indulgence in its story stops it from becoming a really great thriller. As it is, it’s still well-worth seeing on the big screen but not much will stay with you once the credits roll.

Scott J.Davis | [rating=3]

Mystery,Thriller | USA, 2018 | 15 | 1st March 2018 (UK) | 20th Century Fox Pictures | Dir.Francis Lawrence | Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Charlotte Rampling, Matthias Schoenaerts

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