Very recently Jennifer Lawrence encouraged “haters” with blogs not to see Red Sparrow. Sorry Jennifer, while I’m certainly no hater, I had to disobey you this time. However, it was with good reason because even thought the film was heavily marketed, which is already an alarm bell, I held hope for an entertaining and thrilling spy drama that revolves around seduction techniques and how characters were going to interact and talk to each other, we could get a few scenes where two spies try to out-seduce each other. Red Sparrow doesn’t do that and instead gives us a film that is great for showcasing talent, but the wider narrative feels as though it tripped over itself past the half hour mark.
Jennifer Lawrence had certainly been loosening her acting restrictions as of late, and Red Sparrow is one of those film that unlocks more roles to fill. Her performance is exactly what you’d expect from an actress who has kicked the door down with her fantastic ability to guide the audience through the many twists and turn of the narrative, of which there are certainly plenty of. Her character Dominika is also clearly motivated as her life takes a turn for the worst on top of taking care of her sick mother.
One character I found despising is Dominika’s uncle Vanya played by Mattias Schoenaerts. Every scene he is in you feel uncomfortable watching because of his demanding invasion of space. His creepy domineer personality makes him a curious character which makes the audience pay extra attention to him to take in every sly move he makes in the film.
First and foremost, Red Sparrow is horrid but in a good way when it shows the psychological and physical torture its characters go through. It gave me phantom pains when I was watching torture scenes which is exactly the kind of feeling you’d want an audience to feel, it proves that the audience is with the characters and almost synchronised with what they’re feeling. It makes you think that the film is trying to be this grisly on purpose which is a bold move on their behalf but one that pays off.
There is a tendency with Red Sparrow to assume it takes place in the Cold War, now while that would be terrifically cliched, it would also be one of those rare moments when a cliched setting could have worked better. Or at least continue the ideologies of a post-Cold War era. The film only mentions the Cold War once, but we never get the feeling that these characters are a continuation of the tactical minds of that period.
Tonally, this film is all over the place. There are very little scenes that escape from being dragged out. Even the scenes where not much is happening, the film like to create this illusion with tense music and painful, amplified sounds. You could easily trim this film by at least 20 minutes, there is how many unnecessary moments there are in this film. now the scenes we could have done with more information on is Dominika’s past. At the start of the film she is shown to be a very popular ballerina and it clear form the opening scenes that she loves doing what she does, so why then does Red Sparrow tell us this rather than show it? Admittedly, I am treading on a fine line here, it’s entirely up to you if the film is either telling or showing us, but what gave it away for me what how she is immediately performing in front of a large audience. Now if this love for ballet had been build gradually, I would know more about her and would increase the shock value when she is forced to become a Sparrow.
Spy genres are heavily affected by the change of time, and they change so much that it is difficult to identify what type of spy film is all the rage. Francis Lawrence seems to have taken a gamble in a manipulative story that wants to take a much slower route. This gamble unfortunately backfired right back at him as the story being told becomes a chore to keep up with. With so many twists and turns it difficult to pinpoint which characters are meant to be good or bad. While this can be easily fixed, the final nail in the coffin for Red Sparrow is that it seems to think the audience is still on the same page. Thanks to spy films like The Kingsman and Bond films, we’re are accustomed to having espionage narratives presented to us at a quicker and high-octane pacing. Red Sparrow could have been the game-changer, but the moments in between the big plot points where not much happen ruin these chances.
It a real shame that the film loses its balance. This feels like a film you can dig into and break down, but i it never invites you to do this and results in a lukewarm story with not a lot to get enthusiastic about except that Jennifer Lawrence is in it.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Red Sparrow? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Gringo