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Movie Review

03/7/18

Red Sparrow
Dir: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, and Jeremy Irons
Monte’s Rating
2.75 out of 5.00

Monte Yazzie
Movie Columnist

At this point in the career of Jennifer Lawrence it’s pretty easy to imagine her playing almost any kind of character no matter how preposterous it might look like on paper. Body morphing blue mutant, home shopping network tycoon, talented archer in a dangerous game; it all seems possible for the Oscar winning actress. In “Red Sparrow” Lawrence plays a Russian professional ballerina turned deadly spy, the actress’ performance keeps this meandering and familiar spy film afloat.

Dominika Egorova is a talented ballerina in Moscow; she is at the peak of her career when a catastrophic accident leaves her unable to dance ever again. With no way to care for her ailing mother (Joely Richardson) she is forced to take an unsavory job offer from her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is a high-up official in the foreign intelligence agency for Russia. The job is to seduce a target by any means necessary, things go terribly wrong and Dominika is forced to join a secret agency of young, attractive spies known as “Sparrows.”

Director Francis Lawrence, who has worked with Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) in all the “Hunger Games” films, paces the film in the beginning with the twists and turns one would expect from a spy film. It’s unfortunate that this doesn’t maintain throughout the film as the narrative elements settle into the mundane. Still, the director does some interesting things when it comes to the character of Dominika who undergoes the change from ballerina to spy in a viscous way. The push for control and manipulation means that the Sparrows are constantly forced into uncomfortable sexual situations and torturous head games for training purposes. The weapon for the Sparrows is much more than simple guns and knives, instead they are trained to manipulate and exploit the desires of their targets to accomplish their mission.

Jennifer Lawrence shines in the lead role, playing the character with a thick accent and providing all the confidence to make Dominika come to life.  Lawrence moves easily throughout some of the rough terrain in this film, dancing elegantly one moment then brutally beaten the next; it’s her performance that makes these moments feel convincing. Also making some of the paper thin Russian characters pop are veteran actors Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling, which make the throw away characters have more purpose than they should. Joel Edgerton plays an American operative who has his cover blown, but cleverly stays in the mix by having connections with a secret Russian operative. Edgerton’s character is somewhat misused throughout the film, mostly left to provide a clue or pathway for Dominika to follow.

“Red Sparrow” doesn’t feel like James Bond, instead it feels more akin to the Jason Bourne films or the “Atomic Blonde” film from last year. Jennifer Lawrence is the highlight here; playing a character that operates for self-survival amidst numerous opportunities to bend to the will of the powerful, letting men have control over her life in moments, or following the gender roles established within this specific environment. It’s unfortunate that “Red Sparrow” doesn’t do more to compliment this intriguing character.