Red Sparrow: Russian Roulette

Film Review

    I really like a good spy thriller because they are intriguing, entertaining, and full of mystery. Red Sparrow, a Russian spy drama, based on the novel by Jason Matthews, is a solid, compelling, and, at times, intriguing film. Greatly boosted by Jennifer Lawrence’s lead performance and solid direction from Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games 2013, 2014, and 2015), this film has a lot of twists and turns. No characters appear to be good, and none can be trusted. It’s a classic spy film trope.

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    The first thing we see in the opening is a ballet sequence that is very strong and well directed. This scene is accompanied by James Newton Howard’s overture, which is strongly influenced by Tchaikovsky. The rest of the musical score is a much more standard, electronic, modern thriller music.

    The film’s main character, Dominika Egorova, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a ballerina, who is recruited by her uncle to become a Russian spy. She is forced to attend the Sparrow School in order to be able to care for her disabled mother. The spy school scenes, where Dominika is trained in espionage and how to seduce targets, are quite brutal. Lawrence’s performance is good as the reluctant, threatened, but resilient agent.

    Joel Edgerton plays an American spy, named Nate Nash, who crosses paths with Dominika, and they develop an unrealistic romance that lacks any believability. Jeremy Irons (Batman and Superman, 2016), essentially plays himself, is the head of the Russian spy organization, and directs the main antagonist, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, 2015), a sly, untrustworthy Russian operative. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, 2015) does a good job as the stern, disciplinary matron of the Sparrow School. All of these performances, however, take backstage to Lawrence’s for much of the film.

    There is a lot of violent, and, surprisingly, visceral scenes, which may offend anyone who doesn’t like that sort of thing. The torture scenes are intense. Red Sparrow is a very long film over two hours. Thirty minutes could have been trimmed. Aside from that, it’s a very modern, slick, spy thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed. Despite what the trailers might lead you to believe, it’s not action packed, but more of a thriller. It succeeds thanks to its style and performances. I did find it to be a solid time at the movies.

Now playing in Hanover at The Nugget Theaters, Monday - Thursday 6:15 PM, Friday 5:00 and 8:00 PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 PM.


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