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.
Red Sparrow, the new spy film comes from Francis Lawrence, who reunites again with Jennifer Lawrence following up on their three Hunger Games films. Red Sparrow centres on a rising star ballerina, who is railroaded into an undercover government program designed to train Spies who excel in emotional and physical manipulation to further their government’s agenda.
The film is beautifully shot and takes gives detailed attention to the world building, and set design with high quality production values effectively producing a grounded and gritty environment, the film immerses the audience in the Russian and eastern European locations where the story takes place.
It’s an ambitious tale which seeks to condense several significant story arcs into the one film, however several of these plots suffer from the abridged nature of the storytelling, the training sequences in particular felt condensed, as do several of the character relationships which all could have benefitted from some hard creative decisions to refocus the film to do less, but to go deeper into the material which it does explore.
Irrespective of the ground it covers, it’s very much a slow burn plot-wise, the film constantly lingers on either Lawrence or the set design, with seemingly more thought given to costumes and sets than characters and plot. Despite so much time being taken to deliver this story, with such ambition its characters feel undeveloped, and while the suspense is effective at times, the overall intrigue of the film is lacking.
It comes off more like a sequence of high level plot points being ticked off, rather than truly delving into the complex spy world it’s depicting. There are references and convoluted hints about bank accounts, computer files, and traceable chemical substances, all of which is never really weaves together in a particularly engaging way.
The film raises many questions about the exploitation of spies, the morality of the kind of training the main character undergoes, and the nature of loyalty to one’s country, but it doesn’t manage to explore any of these themes in a satisfying manner, the film is more aware of it’s setting than the story it wants to tell.
To its credit Red Sparrow is intense when it wants to be, it makes compelling use of interrogation scenes, as well sexual violence and torture which move the film soundly out of the popcorn entertainment space and into a more serious thriller/drama, but it lacks the material to round out these more intense scenes with substance which helps elevate the stakes.
Joel Edgerton makes the most of the material he’s given here and is a likeable addition to the cast, Lawrence gives a strong performance as well even though it’s a more subdued type of role than she otherwise might be more noticeable in.
Edgerton and Lawrence work fine together on screen, but aren’t able to delivery anything particularly memorable in their shared scenes. Mary-Louise Parker has a familiar but as always enjoyable to watch appearance in the film, and both Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling round things out with good supporting roles.
Overall Red Sparrow has a lot of potential and raises interesting ideas, but isn’t able to make the most of its potential. I’m giving it 6 out of 10, Red Sparrow is currently in cinemas around Australia.