Film Review – Red Sparrow

“Dominika Egorova is many things.
A devoted daughter determined to protect her mother at all costs.
A prima ballerina whose ferocity has pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit.
A master of seductive and manipulative combat.

When she suffers a career-ending injury, Dominika and her mother are facing a bleak and uncertain future. That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust.”


Film Review – Red Sparrow

I’m not sure that Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton are capable of delivering a bad performance. And it is their combined chops that elevates sinister spy thriller Red Sparrow into a premiere realm.

Edgerton plays Nate Nash, an undercover American CIA operative in Russia who has been handling a mole for three years. In a botched handover of information, Nash draws the attention of the Russian security services and flees back to the US with his identity compromised.

Lawrence plays Ballerina Dominika Egorova, who, after an horrific onstage accident is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon.

Your first clue that Egorova might come from an unusual family lies in the fact that it is her uncle Vanya Egorov played by Matthias Schoenaerts who recruits her, before placing her in a dangerous situation after which she must commit to the Sparrow program to be able to afford care and housing for her ill mother Nina (Joley Richardson).

Lawrence and Edgerton are joined by a raft of quality players including Charlotte Rampling as the Matron at Sparrow School, Ciarán Hinds as security chief Zakharov, and Jeremy Irons as General Korchnoi.

Other familiar faces include Netflix regulars Bill Camp as CIA members Marty Gable in his third film alongside Edgerton (after Midnight Special and Loving), House of Cards Sakina Jaffrey as Trish Forsyth and Mary-Louise Parker as a duplicitous US diplomat.

In addition to solid performances, what keeps Red Sparrow enthralling is the stunning camera work of Hunger Games cinematographer Jo Willems.

Here teaming up with Francis Lawrence for a fifth consecutive movie the pair make an outstanding team as there is not a shot or a scene that does not draw you into the action.

Ultimately the film has a couple of hiccups in the story department as it attempts to neatly wrap up a tale of double and triple crossing spies who may or may not be romantically involved with one another.

I’ve never been able to sit through Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to come to terms with who was spying on who in that film, and Red Sparrow plays in a similar sandbox, eventually becoming a little too clever for itself.

The other potential pitfall as far as mainstream audiences go is the depiction of sex and violence – often together.

More than handful of scenes are more than confronting, they verge into gruesome territory and elicited sharp intake of breath throughout a packed cinema screening.

I would definitely watch this again at home to get a better sense of the twists and turns and if you enjoy a good spy thriller you’re in for a good, if brutal time.

Following my enthusiastic review of Atomic Blonde last year, several viewers rebuked me for not highlighting the level of violence portrayed in that film, so forgive me if I make Red Sparrow sound like a Tarantino-fest. It’s more that the violence is vividly shot and feels very real.

What gets the film through ultimately is Lawrence’s ability to play the cipher, as it is simultaneously the other characters, and the audience, who are never quit sure which side she’s on.

This twisting, turning sinister spy thriller is sexy, stylish, harrowing and brutal. At times grisly but always compelling to watch, it is another juicy role for Lawrence following on from spooky thrillers Passengers and Mother!

3 & ½ Stars – “A Sinister and Stylish Spy Thriller”


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