Review: Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow
7 10

PLOT: An injured Russian ballerina (Jennifer Lawrence) is forced by her cold-blooded spymaster uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) into becoming a “sparrow”, an elite group of spies chosen for their attractiveness who use their sexuality to extract information from targets.

REVIEW: RED SPARROW is director Francis Lawrence’s most accomplished film as a director. Having begun with CONSTANTINE and I AM LEGEND before joining the HUNGER GAMES franchise, this is a starkly different entry into his filmography that suggests a maturing director who’s looking to take some serious risks. The same goes for his star, Jennifer Lawrence, with this being an unexpectedly daring film for both of them. While the premise seems to suggest a stylish actioner in the vein of ATOMIC BLONDE, RED SPARROW has more in common with John LeCarré, in that it’s a gritty, unglamorous spy yarn that would be defiantly anti-commercial were it not for Lawrence playing the lead.

Based on the novel by Jason Matthews, an ex-CIA agent, Lawrence’s heroine, Dominika Egorova, is a good fit for the star. Only adopting a modest Russian accent, we see her as a star ballerina whose career is ruined by a jealous rival. Her obsessed uncle offers financial support for a small favor, which ends with her as the witness to a political assassination, and now leaves her a loose string for the state. Her only option is to become a Sparrow, where her body quite literally belongs to the state.

The pro-Russia lobby certainly won’t appreciate what’s got to be one of the most anti-Russian films since the heyday of the Cold War, but it adds up to an entertaining potboiler, with Dominika sent to seduce a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) handling a well-placed mole in the upper echelons of their espionage network.

While Francis Lawrence has made a classy spy thriller, RED SPARROW lives and dies by Lawrence’s performance. A lot of people in her position wouldn’t have taken on something so rough, especially with it being (arguably) the first real test of her box-office mettle post HUNGER GAMES. She looks incredible in her well-costumed role, but the theme of sexual exploitation is also at the forefront, making her numerous nude scenes uncomfortable to watch. Even when she beds Edgerton you get the queasy feeling she’s only doing it because she hasn’t got a choice - and needs the insurance of him being sexually in-thrall to her to guarantee he’ll help her. Oddly, this actually makes their curious lack of chemistry pay-off.

While it’s being sold as a thriller, audiences going into RED SPARROW should be prepared for something much more in-line with an older thriller like THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD than a more modern one, with action definitely taking a back seat to intrigue. In fact, there are no traditional action beats here, save for a brief effective fight - although the film is still quite violent, particularly in the numerous, gruesome torture sequences. This one earns its R-rating.

RED SPARROW also benefits from a great supporting cast, with Jeremy Irons as a Russian intelligence officer, Charlotte Rampling as Lawrence’s trainer, Bill Camp as a surly CIA agent, and best of all - Mary Louise Parker as an alcoholic source. While the 140 minute running time is indulgent, it moves pretty well and is nicely complemented by a really solid score by James Newton Howard (one of the most consistent composers out there).

It’ll be interesting to see how J-Law’s fans react to this one, especially in the wake of MOTHER! It’s another unconventional choice by an actress who refuses to be pigeonholed, and she’s cast to perfection in this solid thriller.

Source: JoBlo.com



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