Red Sparrow Review: Passes muster
Though not on par with other female-oriented spy thrillers, thanks to being a decent mix of elements we rarely get to see in this genre, Red Sparrow qualifies as a decent watch
Usually, spy thrillers are filled with high-octane action and futuristic gadgets, like in the James Bond or the Bourne franchises. But there are no such stereotypes in Red Sparrow, which is a story that is more about the nuances of espionage.
This Francis Lawrence thriller, based on the eponymous novel, is predominantly about the exploitation of a woman, both physically and mentally. Her “body belongs to the State”, as a female superior assigned to ‘train’ Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) says. Until then, she is just a Bolshoi Ballet dancer who, after a career-ending injury, gets recruited by her uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) who trades her sacrifice to the country with care for her sick mother. But Dominika doesn’t become a spy right away; she hatches into a ‘Sparrow’. Hatches, because it’s more of a rebirth for her with new credentials and a one-way ticket to a training ground, called Sparrow school, where she learns the art of seduction and to fall in love on command—as that’s apparently the easiest way to get the job done. “Whore school”, she calls it at one point.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts
Director: Francis Lawrence
The film is filled with sexual violence in the form of rape and harassment, which justifies the A certificate it is slapped with, but that’s not all. We see a man being skinned alive, a woman being run over, a spy getting tortured... But they never truly feel justified. But before you think the film’s just big-budget torture porn, the plot of American spy Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) saves the show. He’s in charge of protecting the identity of the mole in the Russian secret service. The same mole whose identity Dominika has to uncover.
Jennifer Lawrence, you could say, has been on a shocking spree with her last two films—Mother!, for its content, and Passengers, for, well, signing up, given its reviews. The streak, it seems, continues with Red Sparrow.
The film’s partly redeemed by her transformation from a silent dancer to a mastermind, and to her credit, she never truly goes overboard with her histrionics. Director Lawrence has extracted the best out of the actor and credit for this probably goes, in part, to their comfort levels, having earlier worked together on the three-part Hunger Games franchise.
While on the director, he manages to maintain an air of mystery around all the characters. Till the very last moment, he keeps alive the suspense of who is fighting for which side. That he does so without building it up with quick cuts or urgent music is quite intriguing. Though the build-up to the big reveal is mediocre, you still won’t really mind it, thanks to a pretty satisfying climax.
Even when the film drags a bit at places, the technical expertise of Jo Willems’s camera work sort of makes up for it. But on the flip side, Red Sparrow is yet another film that falls victim to ‘whitewashing’ with many white actors resorting to fake accents in trying to play Russians. The film is also overlong.
Though the film isn’t on par with other female-oriented spy thrillers such as Atomic Blonde or Salt, thanks to being a decent mix of elements we rarely get to see in this genre, Red Sparrow qualifies as a decent watch.