Red Sparrow, an American spy thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence, is written by Justin Haythe based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. Red Sparrow has the perfect recipe for a thriller: Spy, Sex, Russia and a girl with a personal vendetta; however, it ends up being something else entirely by the end.
Dominika Egorova is a famous ballerina working for ‘the Bolshoi’. An On-stage accident ends her dancing career forever, following which she is approached by her uncle, Ivan, who works for the Russian Intelligence. She is coerced into a new profession by Ivan, who threatens poverty and no health-care for her sick Mama.
At around same time, a CIA operative Nate Nash(Joel Edgerton) is running around Gorky Park, protecting his Russian source, codenamed Marble. He blows his cover and is sent back to US, only to be reassigned back to Budapest to get in touch with Marble again.
The rest of the movie laces along convoluted plot lines, and leaves the audience wondering, “Hold on, where did that come from?”
Jennifer Lawrence’s terrific acting is truly on display in the torture and confrontation scenes. However, the character lacks coherence. Was she with Russians? Was she with Americans? Was she playing both of them? Was she a double agent? Was she a double double agent? She has a strong wind about her, with an end goal set in her mind.
The clumsiness of the movie doesn’t help the character’s case. Except for the first 20 minutes, Dominika is always in control since, her character is confronted with adversity and she quickly learns and overcomes herself with the grace of the Red Sparrow she is.
Joel Edgerton acts in a supporting role. Nate Nash is a seasoned CIA spy who seems to have been in the Langley based agency’s employ for most of his adult life. Despite that he hasn’t lost his identity as is evident from the beginning, when he compromises himself to save the Russian Confidential Informant. His selfless acts prove that he is a loner, with no family. His romance with Lawrence’s Dominika did start quite intriguingly, as we are left to discover that Dominika isn’t the only one trained in the seductive arts.
The uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a very interesting character. A skilled operative in his agency always a step ahead of his peers but with a questionable personality (a borderline pedophile as will be seen later). However, he is a person devoid of a moral compass. Dominika being his niece didn’t matter one bit when it comes to business.
Red Sparrow manages to grip the audience, and wonderfully so too. The Russian accent on the Russian characters didn’t seem forced. American characters seemed more nuanced than their Russian counterparts. Apart from that, the movie seemed to gently waddle along the fact that there is a cold war 2.0 still going on. Most characters are complex and exposed with time and patience, which does seem to run dry towards the second half as the movie scrambles desperately to tie all its loose ends and not with the best results.
“Every human being is a puzzle of need. You must become the missing piece, and they will tell you anything.”
As Charlotte Rampling’s character of the Matron points out, “The cold war is not over, just shattered in thousand different pieces.” Red Sparrow is definitely worth a watch, viewer discretion is very much advised, also, while the viewer is at it, it’ll help if they do not leave their brains back home, even then, there’s still several loose ends that will keep persistent thinkers disappointing. The film is very pretentious with it’s knowledge of psychology and the art of seduction. However, it fails to deliver on screen, even then there’s plenty of stuff, good, bad and incoherent that will keep movie goers entertained and intrigued long after they leave the cinema.
In addition to that, Red Sparrow portrays an American-ized version of the Russians, and their policies. A lot of both, true and false stereotypes are abundant in this spy thriller. Some people will find them creditworthy, while the rest who have gotten used to the trend probably won’t mind.
At the end, Red Sparrow proves to an interesting watch. Stereotypes and cheesiness aside, there are a lot of aspects about the CIA and other enigmatic agencies that are explored, and how they exploit both their own people, as well as others in the name of patriotism.