Film Review: Red Sparrow (2018)

2018 in Cinema:

Red Sparrow, 2018

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louis Parker, Jeremy Irons

 

After being witness to a murder, Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence, mother!) is persuaded to join the Red Sparrows by her uncle, Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), the same man who put her in the sitatuation where she witnessed the murder, and she undergoes training where she, and all the other Red Sparrows, learn to be a spy who uses their bodies for the mission’s cause. Her eventual mission is to learn who is a mole within their organisation from an American, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton, It Comes at Night).

The main thing the Red Sparrows are taught is to use their bodies to manipulate men into giving away their information, and this film certainly takes advantage of the sexual nature of the Sparrows. From Dominika witnessing the murder during a potential-rape to learning about sexual control to sleeping with Nate to being tortured while naked to being borderline-sexually-harassed by almost everyone she comes into contact with, sex is a dominant theme throughout this movie. Some of them, though, are quite violent, and it’s quite a surprise considering the nature of Jennifer Lawrence’s character arc in both mother! and Red Sparrow the she’s accepted these roles, but it’s a testament to her bravery as an actor. She manages to give a solid performance, as does Joel Edgerton and the rest of the cast, further proving that Lawrence is a fantastic actor regardless of the genre or character she’s working in.

The musical accompaniment to this film matches the tone and speed of the film quite effectively, too. Dominika starts off as a ballet dancer who dances to classical music and this plays throughout, especially with the rather slow-moving pace of the plot. However, while the music is beautiful and matches the plot’s pacing, it all doesn’t work too well because the plot moves so, so slow that 140-minutes really felt like 140-minutes. There is quite a lot to get through and everything takes its time; whether it’s needed or deserved. Extra lines of dialogue are added that play no part in the overall film (such as her roommate warning her to stay out of her room, but Dominika later sneaks into her room without a care and nothing comes of it), and extra character arcs are added when it really doesn’t affect the film (such as her uncle having a sexual interest in Dominika). It felt like it explained everything in the entire world of their lives, slowly morphing a ballet dancer into this spy and morphing her from a shallow body-protective girl to someone who happily strips on command, while also slowly having a plot where she has a mission but wants to escape the Sparrows so tries also to find a way out of her situation. There is so much back-story and explanations that it does feel challenging at parts with all the information given.

And this film also suffers from confusion about their language. It’s set in Russia about Russian people, but they speak English; now, I accept the English speaking because it could be automatically translated (as the Tardis did for those in the world of Doctor Who where it psychically projected a foreign tongue on them and an English tongue on everyone else), but then in her first meeting with Nate, in Budapest, he speaks in Russian and she responds in English. She also visits Vienna at one point and in each country she speaks perfect English with everyone else. Surely having it a little more broken speaking would have confirmed this isn’t natural to them (as speaking Russian in Russia being automatically translated for us, the audience, would be). It’s not restricted to this film, as the recent Black Panther had everyone in Africa speaking English regardless of who they were speaking to, or where they were speaking, but it does appear quite baffling when you look into it.

Jennifer Lawrence continues to show she’s a fantastic and brave actor, not only taking more sexually exploitive roles (after celebrating when she was the only mention in Seth Macfarlane’s Boob Song who hadn’t shown her breasts), and some of the scenes in this film are horrific. There’s torture, more than one form, and it’s presented brilliantly, to the point it becomes almost cringe-worthy watching it as the line between fiction and reality becomes somewhat blurred by the fantastic performances of those involved. It’s just a shame the length and speed of the film doesn’t hold up incredibly well, nor does its convoluted storyline.

 

Plot: * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ¾

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