Movies

‘Red Sparrow’ review: Russian bashing done wrong

Still from Red Sparrow

Still from Red Sparrow   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Despite a brilliant cast, ‘Red Sparrow’ is convoluted and confusing

Red Sparrow is yet another example of how Hollywood seeks to validate the greatness of America over other nations. The film, based on Jason Mathews’ book of the same name, is based during a time when another Cold War has gripped the two countries and there’s a mole in the Russian service feeding the US vital information. After ballerina Dominika Egorova’s (Jennifer Lawrence) leg loudly snaps during a performance, the Bolshoi will no longer fund her rent or her ailing mother’s medical expenses. Her devious uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) ends up manipulating her into working for the Russian Intelligence. The end goal is to become a honey trap for a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) to find the mole.

For a film about spies and espionage, you’d expect a lot more action and thrill, at least some fast chases. But Red Sparrow singularly focuses on an icy Lawrence searing and brooding throughout. There’s a constant cloud hanging over everything, compelling the audience to anticipate a plot twist or at the most a shock around the corner. The convoluted screenplay doesn’t help either. But whatever director Francis Lawrence does dish out then never meets the expectations he’s created.

Red Sparrow
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons.
  • Storyline: A former ballerina becomes a Russian intelligence agent to help suss out a mole

Gimmicky dialogues further underwhelm despite some real talent like Jeremy Irons (playing a General with the Russian Intelligence) or Charlotte Rampling (as the matron at Dominika’s spy school). Then there’s the strangeness of Russians speaking in accented English with each other with just a rare instance of their actual native language. It’s all very confusing, especially when each character has their own inflections. While Lawrence and Schoenaerts keep it steady, Irons and even Rampling mostly stick to their English accents.

The film’s one-sided portrayal of how ruthless Russians are is another oppressive notch to the often unbearable film. Dominika’s spy training includes plenty of sadistic training, from mental discipline to using sex as a weapon, which quite possibly is what all agents go through. In one instance, Dominika has to seduce her would-be rapist to display her strength. But the film’s depiction ends up rather sterile instead of unsettling. Another torture sequence similarly pulverises her body and will. It’s becomes evident very soon that director, Francis Lawrence has used a very skewed American lens to portray the Russians instead of highlighting Dominika’s skills.

Clocking in at more than two very long hours, Red Sparrow should have been shorter, simpler and a lot more entertaining.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 1:42:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/red-sparrow-review-russian-bashing-done-wrong/article22909900.ece

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