Red Sparrow (2018) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence, rape, cruelty and offensive language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova
Joel Edgerton as Nate Nash
Matthias Schoenaerts as Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov
Charlotte Rampling as “Matron”
Mary-Louise Parker as Stephanie Boucher
Jeremy Irons as General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi
Ciarán Hinds as Colonel Zakharov
Joely Richardson as Nina Egorova
Bill Camp as Marty Gable
Director: Francis Lawrence

Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.

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Red Sparrow is a movie I was aware of. It went through a lot of development, from Darren Aronofsky in talks to direct it, then David Fincher was in talks to direct with Rooney Mara to star in the lead role, before finally ending with Francis Lawrence set to direct and Jennifer Lawrence set to star in the lead role. Not going to lie, hearing the prospect of David Fincher directing a spy movie, only for Francis Lawrence to get the job let me down a little (no disrespect to Lawrence, he’s made some good movies). I still had interest in the film but I really didn’t know what to expect. Red Sparrow was actually better than I thought it would be. It had a riveting plot, was well directed and had some good performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence.

Red Sparrow is based on the book of the same name by a retired CIA operative named Jason Matthews. However I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on any potential differences from the book. Red Sparrow is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and while it did really feel it’s length, the story really did have my interest. You have to know that this is a slower paced spy thriller, not a straight up action spy movie. There are plenty of twists and turns from start to finish and involved with every character. Whether or not said twists will hold up on a rewatch remains to be seen. The second half of Red Sparrow oddly seemed slower paced than the first half. Part of why this movie was so divisive is the hard R content, with the violence and sexual violence. While I can see why this turned a lot of people off, I felt that it was handled well, it was brutal enough and didn’t shy away from it, yet it wasn’t too over reliant or self indulgent on it. I think Francis Lawrence has shown himself to be at his best when he’s allowed to go into R rated territory, films like The Hunger Games, I am Legend and maybe even Constantine might be even better had he been allowed to go into those levels. The film ends with a possible set up for a sequel, I do hope that this ends up happening.

The cast all do well here. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead of Red Sparrow and this is one of her best performances yet. She really throws herself into this character who goes through a lot over the course of the movie and she gives it her all. Her Russian accent at time doesn’t always work and can slip out from time to time but it’s passable enough, and her performance aside from that is fantastic. Joel Edgerton was also really good in his role as a CIA operative who comes across Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Although Lawrence and Edgerton are great in Red Sparrow, I really didn’t buy their relationship, I could buy them working together but I never bought them actually falling in love with each other, and I know that’s what the movie was trying to show. It may well be that the writing for them wasn’t strong enough. Supporting actors like Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons all play their roles well.

I was really impressed with Francis Lawrence’s direction here, on top of this movie being his best film, it’s the best direction of a movie I’ve seen from him. Red Sparrow looks visually great and is well put together. Also as I said earlier, the more intense scenes are handled quite well, with the right amount of brutality that’s needed. The score by James Newton Howard is also really good and adds to the movie.

Red Sparrow deserved more praise than it received. It’s really not for everyone, it is brutal and it is a long watch. But for me, the film is well directed, had my attention and had some really good performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence who is great here. I do hope we get a sequel and eventually a trilogy, adapting the 2 other books in the series. I’m not sure how different the first movie is from the first book but I’m sure that there’s a way to continue the series. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast and crew did a great job here and I’d love to see them return again to this series and these characters.

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