About Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow is a 2018 American espionage thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence as the main character Dominika Egorova, a former dancer turned spy for the Russian secret services in order to afford the care her mother requires. The movie also stars Joel Edgerton as Nathaniel Nash, the American spy she falls for, Matthias Schoenaerts, ever the villain, Charlotte Rampling, ever the matron, and an occasional Jeremy Irons flirting with villainy. The film is based on Red Sparrow, the 2013 novel by Jason Matthews.
Red Sparrow, Black widow. A colour and an animal. Surely that meant that these two movies were made from the same cloth. For some reason, I thought that Red Sparrow was going to be another Black Widow origins that would satiate the fan’s bigger appetite than what had been delivered to them so far. It would be some kind of La Femme Nikita, or Lucy or whatever those spy thrillers are that seem to star the briskiest model to sell the most outrageous outfit. It wasn’t. It was more suspense than thrill and the great acting of Jennifer Lawrence only made it feel more so, feeling a little out of place at times in an atmosphere so heavy it begged for more action than acting.
I do not know if it is the pace, the violence, the throat-tightening life-threatening ever-breath situations, the constant doubt. But I kept pausing without a problem. While Jennifer Lawrence wig was higher budget than those of Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman in Aquaman, I could not help but see it as it was. The cliche of the American optimist and idealist and caring versus the Russian perverts and torturing, the understanding and negotiating of the U.S. versus the threats and inhumanity of the Russians verges on propaganda. Almost as if the story was being told by an American. Oh wait…
The main character
The way her character is written is masterful. The way she plays it is on par. The enigmatic Dominika Egorova is scary because you do not know until the last minute who she is really manipulating. And that makes the audience empathise with the Russian villains who put her in this situation as much as the American hero who cares to get her out of it. She has surpassed her master, the character played by Charlotte Rampling. The latter says herself that this Red Sparrow never listened to her, never did what she asked. What I think is most masterful, is the way that you can see her character growing, evolving. The more so, the further she is from a heroine, because you just cannot tell. It was already hard to side with her from the beginning. She went from an ally to our movie experience, caring for her mum and dancing ballet to a stranger resorting to extreme violence to punish the people who plotted her downfall.
In spite of the tint on the author’s glasses, the detail of a lot of the scenes shows clear expertise. I was going to write clear expertise or amazing research and imagination but then my research uncovered the fact that the author is a former C.I.A. spy. I wonder if his younger self was that idealist of a spy who was more humane than a spy should be allowed to be. The so-called Sparrows were also real, young Russian women taught ways of emotionally handling people to extract crucial intelligence.
I need to breathe
I am in two minds about the movie. I don’t know at this point if it was the trailer, the times, or my expectations that mis-prepared me to the movie that it ended up being. I think the atmosphere was too choking for me and the perspective too one-sided. It reminded me of Shawshank Redemption a little during the torture. It is one of the reasons I will not watch such a great movie again. But it remains my favourite (I am still talking about Shawshank Redemption). But unlike Shawshank, the atmosphere is heavy all the time, so it is hard to breathe. It is almost a movie about making you feel great to be American or one of its allies. But also, it feels like an emotional blackmail that dangles torture, pain and a dark grey, threatening and heavy atmosphere if you step outside its boundaries. It is highlighting only the bad things of others to rise oneself.
Yet I am impressed
Jennifer Lawrence and her character are great in the movie. While she did not convince me as a ballet dancer (I am difficult but Natalie Portman did in Black Swan),, she was nonetheless one of the best parts of the movie and definitely the best actors (although 3 minutes of Jeremy Irons on screen arguably annihiltes it but I hesitate to confirm it is his sheer talent since his screen presence and overall charisma do play a great part). Until near the approximately 30th minute preceding the end of the movie, I was not sure if the main protagonist even had a side. I could have hung onto the fact that she was played by Jennifer Larrence or be sucked into her entrapments. I had to wait until it was confirmed to believe it. I never thought for one minute the mole would be revealedd, neither by the main male protagonist nor by the mole himself. And even I saw Jeremy Irons in the “hospital” corridor, I did not thing he was the mole. His speech was quite good too. But yet again the film wouldn’t give us a break when we find her in the hospital. It still had to make us doubt which hospital, American or Russian, as the unknown mole appears, as even she doubts, as the tension would not end and give us a well-deserved sigh after holding our breath hostage for 2 hours and so many minutes. And the movie carries on, twists after twists as we doubt her one last time when she turns over the “mole”.
For me, the Red Sparrow movie is an absolutely superb film, let down by its unsubtle propaganda which also directly links to its one-sidedness and the lack of balance in the atmosphere. It is realistic in that she does not go to America. The main character is superbly written and acted, from the way she keeps the audience in doubt, leaving us on hinge, to the way she is shown to evolve. Giving over a mole is still quite a cold thing to do. The uncle IS a villain, and of those villains whi can soften a hardened heart when they show vulnerability. It is hard to know whether to admire or condemn her but her siding with the US seemingly makes up the audience’s minds for them. The actors are mainly Americans with a sprinkle of British actors, one Eastern European and the only Russian actor I could eventually find on the main list, Makar Zaporozhskiy. Maybe, this is just an American story with Americans playing everyone because the only thing that characterises a foreigner is how they misspeak American and behave unAmerican.. These are the kind of details that make the best films less so and this one is not among the best. It is still above average though. 6 out of 10.
Red Sparrow movie is a 2018 American movie. The movie script is written by Jutin Haythe. Justin Haythe directs the film. Alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton are Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Ivan Vladimirovich, Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Joely Richardson, Thekla Reuten, Bill Camp, Sakina Jaffrey, Douglas Hodge, Sasha Frolova, Ciarán Hinds, Kristof Konrad, Sergei Polunin, Nicole O’Neill, and Makar Zaporozhskiy, to name a few. . At the time of writing, Red Sparrow streams on Disney Plus.