Red Sparrow, the new Russian spy movie is an intense and supremely dark thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, who was at first a famous Russian ballerina, that is until an unfortunate accident occurred. Her life then takes a dark turn as her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) gets her involved with a “Sparrow School” where she is forced to use her body to sexually manipulate their targets. She is recruited to make contact with Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), an American CIA agent. The film is based on the novel by Jason Matthews, a retired CIA officer.
Lawrence is darkly riveting as Dominika and keeps the audience in suspense as she manipulates her ways as a certified sparrow. Her character is deeply layered and is not at all how she seems to be on the flat surface. As her valor and assertive nature intensely grow scene by scene, it’s already evident from the beginning that she is not one to be messed with. The surrounding performances are all very impressive. Edgerton has proved himself worthy these past five or six years. Being a fairly new actor, he’s shown great potential. While his roles have not been too incredibly ranged, he still gives consistently believable performances and does so here with Red Sparrow. The film’s additional and notable performances come from Matthias Schoenaerts, Bill Camp, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louse Parker and Jeremy Irons.
Red Sparrow is incredibly dreary and disconcerting throughout. There are barely any lighthearted moments and the entire film fills you with a feeling of dread and despair. There is still a sense of anticipation to will keep you wondering what the sly sparrow will do next. This is all thanks to the well put together cast and crew.
The film is elegantly shot by cinematographer Jo Willems (Limitless, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and stunningly directed by Francis Lawrence. The dim lighting throughout presents the dark, eerie atmosphere and Francis Lawrence enhances it with Justin Haythe’s screenplay and characters. To darken the atmosphere further, the unnerving musical score was conducted by James Newton Howard (King Kong, Batman Begins). The overall collaborate work here is successful and made a fitting theme for the spy thriller.
The first third of the film is enthralling and engaging. However, the film then starts to go downhill a bit and begins to drag. With the film’s runtime of two hours, nineteen minutes, it feels like a three-hour film exceeding its welcome. Unnecessary plot lines fall into place, adding to the wheels of the film that constantly spin but don’t move it forward. Surprisingly, towards the end, when mysteries are being solved, and elements start piecing together, the movie continues to drag, causing ants in the pants and frequent phone checking. The sense of mystery starts to lose its grip of audiences’ hands but doesn’t completely let us slip, especially with the big reveal at the end.
Red Sparrow is enthralling and mysterious with plenty of plot lines to follow. This is not the casual type of experience though. It requires attention and thought but remains powerful and unexpectedly rewatchable.
Rated R for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity