Red Sparrow Movie Review
“Red Sparrow” is Russian spy craft for what could be called a ‘honey pot’. It is an enticing and intriguing person willing to bend to your every whim, only to double-cross and lead you into destruction. When a former ballerina becomes a Sparrow – then secrets, and blood, will likely be spilled. Hope you can get that carpet cleaned…
Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is the ballet prima donna at the Russian ballet, until an unfortunate accident. With a bum leg, Dominika will no longer star in the ballet, and she will be tossed out of her place. Her mother will get no medical care, unless her uncle, Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), can help her. But she has little choice but to take Ivan’s offer: Sparrow Training Center.
Ivan runs the Russian Security Services (the new and improved KGB). Dominika goes to the training center to become adept at seduction and persuasion. If not, her mother will die. The strict woman who runs the school is the Matron (Charlotte Rampling) and she runs the place with an Iron Curtain fist. Dominika is stripped of all dignity, and at times, all of her clothes. Brutal training includes humiliation, beatings and near rapes. Ivan takes her away for a mission. There is a highly placed general named Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons) who thinks Ivan is not carful enough with the mission.
Her objective is to seduce a Russian oligarch who had made a little too much money. But she is brutalized and he is brutally killed. Dominika is taken away and given a new assignment. She is sent to Europe to attach herself to a CIA agent named Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). Nash has a super-secret mole, a source inside the Russian government that Ivan and his pals want to ‘talk to’. That is spy talk for torture and slowly kill.
There is much traveling – to Bucharest, then Vienna, then London and then to Moscow and back to Bucharest. Anyway, Dominika gets wind of an American who can get military secrets. She has a roommate in Bucharest who tells her about the woman codenamed Swan (Mary-Louise Parker), but her roommate is brutally murdered. Dominika goes to meet with the traitor Swan and deliver the payoff. So she gets all the US State secrets, all on three and half inch floppy drives? Wow, so up-to-date…
But Agent Nash is attempting to win over Dominika to be his double-agent. But at the same time, it is Dominika’s job to win over Nash to determine the identity of the Russian mole. Both are playing a deadly game of Spy vs. Spy. And neither one can be quite sure whose side the other one is really on. At one point a Russian killer is there to take Nash hostage and begins to torture him to death. Will Dominika come to his aid, or is her training really set in stone?
“Red Sparrow” is based on a novel, but it tries to pack as many Cold War type stories inside as it can. There is a story about the Sparrow Training Center, which Dominika later calls “whore school”. There is the Nash and his mole story, which could have been made much more prominent. This is the subplot of the Swan character selling US secrets, and how that all could have come about. There is the main story of Dominika going to meet with Nash and turn him, while Nash is busy trying to change her into another asset.
Francis Lawrence (as the director) should have picked out one of these stories and stayed with it. The movie ends up being overly long and drawn out. Jennifer Lawrence (as the main character) does a passable Russian accent, which occasionally fades in and out. Lawrence (Francis, not Jennifer) takes way too much time focused on humiliation, brutality, murder, rape, and torture. Lawrence (Jennifer, not Francis) does quite a few bold adult moves with scenes of nudity and some sex scenes.
Both Joel Edgerton and Matthias Schoenaerts do very good with their characters. Also, Charlotte Rampling is quite chilling in her role as an emotionless head of the State-run school. But the movie could have used a lot more of Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons. These two are wonderful actors and the movie perks up a bit more when they are on the screen.
“Red Sparrow” is a quite adequate spy movie, with a high level of torture and sex thrown in. But that is an unusual combination, and it makes for an icy and chilly reception for the Cold War drama. Red Sparrow does get off the ground and flies, but it never does soar…
Red Sparrow Review
Red Sparrow Summary
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by: Justin Haythe
Based on novel "Red Sparrow" (by Jason Matthews)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons
Music by: James Newton Howard
Length: 140 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language, and some graphic nudity
Genre: Mystery, Spy Thriller