Movie Review: Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow is the latest spy thriller flick to hit the big screen. The film is directed by Francis Lawrence and reunites him with his The Hunger Games’ star Jennifer Lawrence. The film is written by Justin Haythe and based on the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. The story follows Lawrence’s character, Dominika Egorova, as she becomes a Russian agent and is sent to make contact with a CIA agent and possible mole. Outside of Lawrence, the film also stars Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, and Jeremy Irons.
Set in modern-day Russia, Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) is a famous Russian ballerina who cares for her mother. When she is injured during a performance, though, her future and the care for her mother are threatened. This prompts her to seek help from her uncle, Ivan (Schoenaerts), who works for Russian intelligence. Dominika is tasked with replacing the phone of a Russian politician with a state-provided phone, but when the meeting goes awry, the politician is killed by another operative. Since no witnesses are to remain, Dominika is offered a choice to join an elite intelligence agency called the Sparrows or be killed. With her decision essentially made for her, Dominika decides to become a Sparrow and eventually sets out on a vital and unpredictable mission for her country.
So, for a spy movie that is marketed as a thriller with elements of action, there is honestly not a lot of action sequences. Instead, there are a lot of quiet scenes filled with intense stares. I don’t mind movies that are slower and tension filled, but as the film moves along, I feel like it loses that pivotal sense of tension and expectation. Also, for a movie that seems to have a clear cut motive and plot, Red Sparrow really turns into a mess of a movie. It is marked by double crossing and questioned allegiances, and after a while, those seemingly exciting elements end up leaving the audience not particularly caring about the conclusion.
To be honest, there were quite a few aspects of the film that irked me. I already thought that Jennifer Lawrence’s accent from the trailer was lacking, and it is noticeably dropped quite a few times in the film. Her acting itself was fine, but the accent was terribly distracting for me. She was also not the only one to drop her accent throughout the film, which was frustrating for a movie that has several Russian main characters. I also thought that the whole question of where her loyalties truly lied was not as much of a mystery as it should have been. Additionally, I think that the characters could have benefitted from a little more development. One of the other things that struck me was its use of sound. There were several moments where the sounds were assaulting and overwhelming, and it’s definitely a feature of the movie that I did not enjoy. For example, I do not need the sound of bones breaking to be infinitely louder than the dialogue. Additionally, there are a lot of highly sexualized moments and sequences. I understand why they are included with the nature of the film and the Sparrows themselves, but I would have also preferred to have seen other elements of their training incorporated into the story.
Overall, I would say that Red Sparrow falls a little short in the spy thriller expectations. It is an incredibly slow burn that falls short on the payoff. Its run time is over two hours, but as I sat in the theater, it sometimes felt even longer than that. Also, as I alluded to earlier, this film is R-rated for a reason. There is a lot of nudity in the film, and there are some chilling sequences in terms of violence and torture. Also, while the quest to find the identity of the mole was well-executed, some of the other story beats were not. All in all, I would recommend Red Sparrow for watch at home at a later date if you really love the genre.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.