Red Sparrow – Film Review by Katie McCann
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay by), Jason Matthews (based upon the book by)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts
Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is forced into early retirement after an accident leaves her unable to dance. With no other way of supporting herself, or her invalid mother, she agrees to take on an assignment from her uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is high up in the Russian secret services. After witnessing something she shouldn’t, she is given an ultimatum: become a sparrow, a special agent whose main task is to seduce and manipulate her targets, or face certain death. She chooses the life of international espionage but as we know from most spy thrillers things are never really what they seem.
Red Sparrow attempts to take a fresh look at the spy thriller, placing the usual overly sexualized female character at the center of the plot. With Dominika, the director and writer seem to be trying to give a voice to the abused and mistreated leading lady, showing how she can rise above her abusers to take back her power. While their intentions are noble they unfortunately miss the mark entirely. The film fails to have any real bite (or point for that matter) and while Lawrence gives the best performance she can, her star power is not enough to save the film or make anything of the wishy washy character that is Dominika.
The excessive use of sex and violence in the film, with more than one scene of sexual assault against the leading lady, is too much even for a film where the premise centres entirely around sex. To its credit though, the film does try to play around with the idea of consent, to varying degrees of success. By showing how ultimately Dominika is able to get what information she needs from a subject without ever having to actually sleep with them, it feels as if Red Sparrow is trying to show how sex should not be considered a given, even in situations such as this.
Running at over 2 hours the film is far too drawn out with moments that are entirely implausible and an ultimately convoluted plot. Though there are some charming supporting performances from Jeremy Irons and Ciarán Hinds, not even they can save this film from feeling like a half-hearted copy of the great Cold War thrillers of bygone years.