Spirits were high among the line of people standing outside Cinema 16 (a line that grew by ten people every ten seconds), as people waited for the doors to open to the screening of Red Sparrow—the new spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence.
The trailer made this spy flick look exciting and mysterious; little did I know my expectations were about to be let down and trampled on repeatedly.
Red Sparrow reunites J-Law with her Hunger Games director, Francis Lawrence (no, they are not blood relations), and sees her take on the role of a strong, fiery Russian.
The well-known ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) has her eminent career cut short due to an accident that severely injures her leg. Needing to care for her sick mother, Dominika soon turns to her uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) for help, who is a deputy in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
Ivan coerces her into becoming an agent and Dominika is sent to “Sparrow School”, an SVR espionage training facility, where a squadron of attractive men and women are forced to use their bodies as weapons of sex and seduction. The audience truly gets to see Lawrence use her body, and yet, despite the film’s “for mature audiences” classification, I still found myself shocked to see a lot of explicit nudity in a few scenes.
After enduring a sadistic and perverse training process, Dominika emerges out of the school as the deadliest Sparrow the program has ever created. Her first mission awaits her: working with CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), to identify a mole within the Russian government.
This is only the beginning of Dominika’s journey.
Danger, betrayal and increasingly desperate acts of survival lie around the corner.
Throughout the entirety of this film I felt confused, and was left with questions that went unanswered. However, the outstanding performance from Jennifer Lawrence—including her believable Russian accent—and her character’s power, help to overcome this somewhat uneven, leaky narrative.
The screenplay’s characterisation is woeful and lacks depth. Much of the cast—which consists of Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds, Sakina Jaffery, Charlotte Rampling and Bill Camp—aren’t given a chance to develop their characters further beyond the roles of two-dimensional Russian spies with hopeless accents.
Edgerton’s character, who appears to be the male lead, is mediocre. He doesn’t perform any emotion and there is no background information about him. There is supposed to be a love interest between his character and Lawrence’s, but that too is lacking emotion and seems rushed.
In saying that, I must congratulate the costume designers of Red Sparrow, as the outfits, especially Lawrence’s, are uncommonly breathtaking; from elegant red ballet dresses, to classy black jackets and knee-high boots, these costumes added an extra element of sexiness to Lawrence’s character.
Using the symbol of the sparrow (Lawrence is clearly working her way through the bird species; the mocking jay, the sparrow—what’s next?), an allusion to lustfulness, and a connection to the Greek goddess of love, is implied. This is certainly hinted at by the trained “Sparrows” in the film, who use their sexual wiles to get closer to targets.
A little advice: make sure you can handle disturbingly gory and torturous scenes, because they are pretty consistent throughout the film. During the film, I was the person with their jacket around their face—even though I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the screen for too long. It was gruesome, but added some kind of substance to the plot, and it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.
The camera shots and cinematography certainly make the setting and scenes more aesthetically appealing; it was an attractive film to watch. Impressively well put together, I found the shots of Lawrence in modern day Europe very strategically composed and beautifully framed.
Despite its flaws and messy plot, I enjoyed this film. It was interesting to see Jennifer Lawrence play a character that is different from what she is well-known for, and she did so impeccably.
Three words that sum up this film?
Seductive. Deceptive. Deadly.
Red Sparrow is in cinemas now!
Image from the New York Times (20th Century Fox).