Rob Reviews "Red Sparrow"
“Red Sparrow” is a film whose journey through worldwide cinema is one that I am going to be watching very closely. Based on the first of a trilogy of books by former CIA agent Jason Matthews, it follows young Russian woman Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence). One of the top ballerinas in Moscow, a horrific accident cuts her career short. In order to keep a roof over her head and keep her ailing mother getting care, she agrees to work for her uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts), a top agent in Russian intelligence, as she attends “Sparrow School,” where she learns the art of espionage and seduction. When his superiors feel she is ready, she is sent on a mission to befriend CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) in order to find a mole that the Americans have in their government.
What I truly enjoyed about this film is its successful nod to the old school style of spy storytelling. It is well documented (both on our show and others) about the “instant gratification” society we live in that a film like this two-hour-and-twenty-minute opus will turn off some. Matthews’ story (co-written with Justin Haythe) takes its time to tell the tale of double, triple, and more crossing in order to keep the audience guessing which side Dominika falls on up until the very end and beyond. There is a LOT going on here, and I would imagine that unless this book is so thick that it would crush a coffee table, there is not a lot left out of the source material. For me, this is more reminiscent of the John le Carre’s darker and more intriguing style over a Robert Ludlum or Ian Fleming flash-bang, keep-it-moving story. Neither of these are bad; it is just good to see this throwback to focus more on the psychological aspect of what makes espionage intriguing.
Francis Lawrence directs Jennifer Lawrence for the fourth time (after all but the first of the “Hunger Games” films), and he knows how to keep her properly shot at all times. “Red Sparrow” is visually stunning, from the cold and dreary Russian urban landscape to the more modern sequences in Budapest to the remote and lonely Sparrow School, each has its own characters that affect everyone and everything around them. Seeing Dominika’s evolution from a girl that just wants to follow her dream into an international weapon comes across with enough emotion to follow closely but enough at an arm’s length to not let the audience in on where it is going until exactly where and when Lawrence wants them to. With a supporting cast that features Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, and Bill Camp, there is a well-rounded group of people that makes it even that much more enjoyable with their performances. There IS a lot of graphic violence (including torture that made me wince a bit) and even nudity and sexual situations, so make sure that the “R” rating here is heeded when it comes to whom you bring with you to this film.
Yes, there are going to be a fair share of detractors, but I honestly feel that this is a film that is following in the footsteps of “Murder on the Orient Express” that can herald in an age of giving an audience films that are worth the money they are paying to get into the theater with substance over style. Simply sit back and enjoy the ride that “Red Sparrow” takes you on.