by Ian Thune
How far would you go to protect the ones that you love? This is what Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Red Sparrow is forced to ask.
When her leg is broken in a ballet accident, and she can no longer afford to care for her disabled mother, Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) is forced by her uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) to become a Sparrow, a group of special operative spies working for the Russian government. Her first mission is to find the name of the mole leaking information to CIA operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). But when she is faced with an opportunity to leave Russia with her mother, will Egorova stay loyal to the state or put her family first.
Overall, this is a wonderfully suspenseful movie, keeping the audience guessing about Egorova’s intentions until the very end. As Egorova plays both the Russian government and the CIA, both of which present their side for her help wonderfully, she is also coming to terms with her new lifestyle and how it is affecting her as a person and her relationship with her mother.
However, Red Sparrow’s greatest pull-in is also one of its weaknesses. With the movie relying so much on the suspense of not knowing what is going on, it pulls the audience in to the story, trying to stay one step ahead of the actions happening on screen. But once the ending is known, the movie is not able to maintain a high level to the other areas of the film to have the same effect.
Another flaw of the movie is that it does not know what its main message is. Themes of loss of identity, loss of family, female power, the individual vs. the government, and loss of innocence all pop at various points throughout. The film does not take a side on any of these themes, but instead flashes them at random intervals with no discernable pattern.
But perhaps the most important are the pair of loss of identity and loss of innocence. In the Sparrow program, the recruits are taught that they belong to the state, including their bodies. They are taught to use their bodies to advance their needs, and the film features brief scenes of nudity and sexual themes throughout the first half of the second act. Egorova fights against this, as she attacks potential rapists and refuses orders to remove her clothes from her superiors, taking control of her own body. However, she also will do what she wants to achieve her goals at the same time.
Lawrence’s acting is wonderful, overshadowing everyone else in the film. With great supporting acting from Jeremy Irons and Matthias Schoenaerts, the acting is the best part of the film. The exception may be the chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton, the two leads. The relationship that builds throughout the film may not be quite believable at times, but the suspense of the film allows it to hide in a first viewing.
As a whole, this is a good, but not great spy film. Not as action packed as the rest of the spy movies that we have come to expect. It does deal more with the espionage and the double-dealing side of spying, and it is a good change of pace. However, the suspense that serves the first viewing so well does not translate to a second, much less a third showing. Due to this and an overall lack of theme, I would give Red Sparrow a 6.5/10. It’s not the best movie in theaters right now, but it is far from the worst.