Jennifer Lawrence, spy-vibes and bad russian accents – I was sold from the first trailer. Uncomfortable sexual content, incest vibes and skin peeling – things I wasn’t prepared for.
Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a prima ballerina who suffers a leg-snapping end to her career, is faced with the prospect of her mother no longer receiving the medical care she needs and eviction from the home they share. In desperation she turns to her Uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts), a member of the Russian secret intelligence agency, who has a special job lined up for her. When the job takes an unexpected turn, Dominika is given a choice between execution for what she has witnessed and using her body (yes in a sexy kinda way) to serve the government. She decides that staying alive is probably the better option and is sent to ‘whore school’ to become a Sparrow – an agent who specializes in seduction. On graduating early, Dominka is sent to seduce Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA operative, and discover the identity of his Russian asset.
Now it’s not that the premise is the issue… it’s actually a decent set up that leads to an almost compelling guessing game about which side Dominka really might be on. But somewhere between the lecherous uncle, the drab whore school and and the stale ‘romance’ between Dominka and Nash – Red Sparrow falls pretty flat.
First, the Uncle. I think the main issue with Matthias Schoenaerts’ character is that he is way too friendly looking. His general vibe is trustworthy and chill, so even though they spell it out for you – THIS GUY IS A CREEP – the character didn’t sell the message. Maybe this is purely a reflection of a problem in my own brain, but he was probably my favourite character and I was almost rooting for him over Dominka.
Whore school was another issue for me. Setting aside the terrible russian accents and the grey, unflattering outfits the agents wore (mmm so seductive) for a moment – it was hard to imagine how anyone could come through the school learning anything about developing an authentic feeling connection with another human being. Charlotte Rampling was the stern and emotionless ‘Matron’ who tutored the Sparrows. Her attempt at a Russian accent was possibly the worst in the film, and like the Uncle, the character just seemed like the wrong fit for the role it was meant to assume.
Joel Edgerton made a decent, generic CIA operative. If the romance between his character, Nate Nash, and Dominika had been carried out more convincingly, the plot would have been a whole lot more engaging. To be honest, he gave off more Uncle vibes than her actual Uncle and even though I was mildly intrigued as to whether their feelings for each other were genuine or not, I ultimately didn’t care what happened to them.
Alright, so, it wasn’t all bad! For a mid-range budget film, it was a visual treat. Jennifer Lawrence is, of course, stunning (although the length of her fringe was excessively annoying) and she gets dressed up in a lot of great outfits too (I enjoyed them anyway). The ballet scenes were truly beautiful and a lot of the film felt like an artwork.
If a bit of the old torture gets you to the cinema – then you won’t be disappointed. I personally found it a bit gratuitous and paired with the attempted rape scenes and uncomfortable sexual aspects of the film in general – it was hard to sit through the full 2 hours and 19 minutes of Red Sparrow. I’m not exactly sure who to recommend this film to. I probably don’t know anyone I would recommend it too except, maybe, the few hard out Jennifer Lawrence fans I know.