HOLLYWOOD—It is no easy feat to craft a spy-thriller that finds the right tone to leave the audience intrigued, involved and attempting to piece the puzzle together before the wool is pulled over them. I went into the theater with low expectations for the film “Red Sparrow” starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, but came out thoroughly surprised. Look there are some that are on the fence about this flick, and while not perfect it does entertain and that is an important element when it comes to cinema if you ask me.
This thrill-ride involves Lawrence portraying Dominika Egorova, a ballerina, whose life is turned upside down by an injury and her involvement with her uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), who just happens to work for the Russian intelligence. After a traumatic incident, Dominka finds herself in the ranks training to become a Russian operative. Once again, Lawrence finds a way to immerse herself in the characters she portrays on the big screen. I loved the accent she acquired for the role; it reminded me of her feistiness in “American Hustle.”
“Red Sparrow” has a lot of moving pieces transpiring at once, so as a viewer you really do have to be attentive to the screen to ensure you’re following the narrative that jumps around a bit in my opinion from one character to the next. One skill that Dominika is trained in is the art of seduction, which as a Russian spy requires the right amount of tact to prevent being exposed. That dynamic becomes a major element of the plot as she finds herself tasked with gaining the trust of Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA operative working in Moscow on a secret mission with a mole known as Marble.
Edgerton and Lawrence shine together in the movie and the dance they do at covering each other’s tracks makes for some fascinating drama. You question Dominika’s actions even though we know she is the heroine, and Nash who while he seems like a good guy, the verdict is not 100 percent certain within the first two acts of the film. I absolutely loved Sergej Onopko as Simionov, who also works for the Russian intelligence and is a brutal enforcer to say the least. He’s a villain that is quite scary; he’s one you definitely don’t want to double-cross, and he ensures that Dominika is crystal clear in understanding that message.
The film has some strong talent beyond Lawrence and Nash, especially in Charlotte Rampling, who portrays the Headmistress at the Sparrow School, who is a vital role in Dominika’s training. That also goes for Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons and Joely Richardson. These are all players who orbit around our main character and the mystery at the core: who is Marble? So there is the back and forth between the Russian government and the American government and raises perhaps the most interesting question of all: is there any government that can be fully trusted?
While there is action, sex and plenty of thrills in the flick, I heighten it more to a dramatic psychological thriller that doesn’t leave you unnerved, but enthralled to the core to the shenanigans that unfold. Just when you think you know where things are headed a curveball is thrown the audience’s way taking things in a totally different direction.
That makes “Red Sparrow” a ton of fun, however, the pace slows down a bit during the middle act and about 20 minutes could have been severed from the film to eliminate that slight drag. I will point out the violence in this flick is vicious and hard-core; it’s not for the faint of heart and this movie is without a doubt rated-R. If you’re looking for a movie that will keep your mind churning and entertained, “Red Sparrow” is the perfect choice.