Red Sparrow - 2018
Director(s): Francis Lawrence
Writer(s): Justin Haythe (screenplay) / Jason Matthews (book)
Cinematography by: Jo Willems
Editor(s): Alan Edward Bell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons
Synopsis: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to 'Sparrow School,' a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations (IMDB).
Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence once again work together after their successful run together in the Hunger Game franchise. This time around they tackle subject material more mature by nature. Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika, one of the top ballerinas in Russia who, after an accident, is forced to enter the Sparrow program to be able to provide for her mother. From the get-go, the movie lets you know that it’s not tip toeing around the fact that using your body as a tool like James Bond does in almost every movie is not as glamorous for a female spy. This movie at times is gory, at times is slick and at times is beautiful to look at, but suffers from an overall uneven tone that doesn’t help the end result.
Francis Lawrence and cinematographer Jo Willems shot this movie beautifully, despite there being shots with scenes that could be hard from some audience members to watch. Since our main character is thrust into this espionage world, we live through her. Mainly her eyes, as she tries not to overly react or show her true emotions to her superiors. Lawrence and Willems framed Jennifer in the middle with a lot of medium and close shots, letting her react to the situation she finds herself in.
Quick note: after writing the review I ventured onto Rotter Tomatoes and I didn’t expect the gore to be such a big talking point amongst the critics. I didn’t find it excessive or hard to watch. I guess take my “some audience members” warning based on your sensibilities.
If you are a fan of the spy genre, you will enjoy this movie but you will also see the inner workings. The story flows pretty straight-forward with some twists and turns inserted here and there. I liked the added family elements to the antagonist of the story, but it could’ve been expanded on a bit more. There is a moment in the movie that leads absolutely nowhere that makes me wonder if it was at all necessary. The movie’s runtime is a bit heavy and the script could’ve benefited from trimming to tighten up the flow a bit. I did enjoy the dialogue and the use of symbolism throughout the movie.
Quick note: the ending is solid, despite it being a bit predictable. They set up enough pieces that when you see them form the puzzle it’s satisfying.
The acting is great. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a complex character, and you are intrigued to see where she goes. She uses her sexuality as she wants despite being trained to use it in another way. There is a key scene during her training that is very pungent, especially in the times we are living in. She takes control of her body and shames one of her fellow students in demonstrating how weak he is. Her Russian accent is fine, sometimes thicker than others. Matthias Schoenaerts was great as one of the main antagonists. He is cool, calm and collected and has a general creepy aura around him. Joe Edgerton is a great actor, but I found it hard to buy his character. It’s not a reflection on his acting, he was great, it’s a reflection on how he was written. For him being a CIA agent, he was far to open and trusting despite him knowing what Jennifer was from the very beginning. Jeremy Irons is fine but he didn’t get the memo that he was playing a Russian.
There is one nitpick that I can’t get over. These are Russian spies. Living for the most part in Russia. Talking for the most part to fellow Russians. Yet they are speaking in English with an iffy Russian accent. Even in the TV series The American (side note: great freaking series), the Russian counterparts speak Russian to each other whenever they are alone. I speak Spanish to my fellow Puerto Ricans. I just kept thinking to myself why is she speaking to her mother in English? Why is she in her apartment with her Russian roommate, speaking in English? Fine, they didn’t want subtitles. Then commit. Never say a Russian word, stick to the funky accents. But, they sprinkle a few Russian words just to remind the audience that they aren’t Americans. This entire paragraph is a huge “me problem” but I just wanted to vent.
Red Sparrow is a slick, sexy, un-sexy, by-the -numbers spy thriller, focusing a bit more on the sexuality side of a spy rather than the killing aspect of the job. Despite the uneven tone of the movie, I found myself entertained. I walked away with a generally fine feeling. The movie is ok and I can’t fault it for being just OK. Jennifer Lawrence delivers another great performance in the hands of Francis Lawrence. Lawrence X 2 is why I love movies.
Res Sparrow is currently playing in theaters. It’s fine.
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