Red Sparrow: Johnathan’s Take


By Johnathan Bonham.

Wow, so this was an intense one. I was squirming in my seat through the end of the movie just hoping that it would stop. By no means is that a bad thing, it was just a little hard to watch the excruciating pain that was being dealt. I enjoyed this movie a lot. It had all the makings of a slow, Cold War, espionage thriller, just with way more sex and violence. Jennifer Lawrence does a great job at playing the ballet dancer turned seductress spy, and is joined by a few familiar faces along the way. The plot is a little hard to follow at times, but overall I would say that the ending wraps things up nicely.

The movie begins with Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) suffering a tragic ballet accident that ends her career. In order to continue supporting herself and her ailing mother, she accepts an offer from her uncle, Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), a known member of the government, on an intelligence mission. Before long, Egorova is sucked into the world of Russian spies where she attends their “Sparrow” school, which essentially teaches them how to be seductive agents. After showing promise she graduates early and is sent on a mission to try and figure out who a mole in their government is by getting close to a CIA agent, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), that pops up on their radar. Before long the two of them are entangled in a relationship, but it’s hard to tell if it’s all strictly a ploy as Egorova seems to have a hidden agenda that even her government might not know about.

That overview really leaves a lot out, but there was also a ton going on. What I left out is to be aware of the rape, violence and torture that you endure through this movie. Let me tell ya, director Francis Lawrence does NOT hold back. My god. There were a few points in the movie where I felt uneasy in my chair. Kudos to Jennifer Lawrence for giving such a very convincing performance of how brutal it all was too. Side note, I’ve got to imagine that Russians are going to hate watching this movie, because it paints them in a terrible light. They are shown as cruel, merciless people, in a shitty, cold country. I’m not saying that’s accurate in real life, but that’s the impression I got.

I think my main gripe of the movie is that when they send Lawrence to Sparrow school, all they focus on is how to overcome awkward sexual situations. I was really hoping to see a bunch of cool spy training and see how she turns into this super-agent, but that is not at all what you get. They learn how to pick a lock, watch porn, and get pimped out? I understand the concept behind that and the necessity of seduction and gaining trust, but I don’t think the movie really did justice depicting that in their training.

It’s used as an opportunity to have Lawrence strip down and hope that the audience glazes over. Nice try! It would’ve been more acceptable had they actually shown her being some wild seductress throughout the film, and then I would’ve thought “Hey, that training they gave her was pretty valuable.” Since that isn’t the case it almost felt more like cheap T&A to please the audience than something that was actually necessary to the development of the film. My other gripe is that she is done with the training in 3 months, and essentially is already a full blown secret agent ready to attempt undermining the CIA.

I don’t buy that. It’s not like she did anything major that would lead you to believe she was field ready. All-in-all, I think the insight that the audience gains in the training should be the focal point of a movie like this, similar to The Recruit or Spy Game, but it wasn’t the case. Not a huge issue to the film, probably more so something I’m being picky about.

Ok, I really didn’t mean for this to turn into me airing my gripes about a movie that I did actually enjoy. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic. She fully dives into her character, and does a phenomenal job keeping you guessing throughout about which side she’s on. Her character is also a total badass. She’s a killer, no doubt about it, but she’s also smart and deceiving. The entire time she’s playing the game to perfection and has everyone wrapped into her web of lies. I enjoyed Joel Edgerton’s performance quite a bit as well, but I’m also a huge fan of his in general.

Truthfully, he just plays a likeable character. He’s a by the book CIA agent who falls for Lawrence, all the while protecting an asset that he was working with in Russia. The movie is clearly Lawrence’s with Edgertonas a focal point, and asides from those two you get some solid performances from Ciaran Hinds, Jeremy Irons, Schoenaerts, Bill Camp, Mary Louise Parker, and Charlotte Rampling playing the more than hate-able, Nurse Ratchett-esque, Matron.

I think the one thing that I had a deep appreciation for was how Francis Lawrence made this feel like a true Cold War, espionage thriller. The key to these types of movies, for me, is to have a slow developing plot that manages to keep the audience’s attention. The pace of the film needs to take its time introducing characters and really building the backstory. Throw in a few surprises here and there with some subtle action throughout, and then climax with a huge twist that the audience doesn’t see coming. I don’t think Red Sparrow follows that to perfection, but I thought the overall pace of the movie was pretty spot on. The movie was probably a little too long and should’ve been closer to the two hour mark, but I don’t think most people will find that overly bothersome.

I enjoyed this movie, and I don’t think it’s just because I have a general obsession with the spy genre. For instance, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy didn’t do it for me, despite having a RIDICULOUS cast. I might have to re-watch it now, but the first time I screened it I thought it was boring and hard to follow. Red Sparrow, on the other hand, kept my attention throughout. I’m not going to label this as a must see or even one that you need to see in the theatre unless you have MoviePass, but definitely watch it once it’s released on DVD.

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