Thursday 1 March 2018

Film Review: Red Sparrow

Sex, spies and videotape all feature in Jennifer Lawrence's new movie, Red Sparrow – but can this icy thriller thaw out its flaws or is it too frigid to thrill? 

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is a successful ballerina at the top of her game, but when an accident leaves her leg out of whack, she's offered a life line in the form of a new start in espionage.

Dominika's uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is a big wig in the Russian secret service, manipulates her into enrolling as a Sparrow, or elite Russian agents who use their bodies and the art of seduction as much as they do their minds and the science of deduction. However, things start to unravel when Dominika's mission sees her cross paths with Nathaniel (Joel Edgerton), a US intelligence operative caught in the crosshairs of his Russian counterparts.

Even though her Russian accent could have done with a bit more work, Jennifer Lawrence turns in a great performance here. Icy, seductive and strong as iron, Lawrence continues to display her range and versatility as an actress as Dominika, who is always one step ahead ahead of the audience and the rest of the characters. This distance means we don't get inside her head much, but Lawrence's performance definitely gets under your skin. Edgerton is great also, even if the chemistry between him and Lawrence is a little lacking.

In a technical sense, Red Sparrow is hard to fault; the cinematography of urban Moscow tower blocks and winding Budapest streets is eerily haunting and beautiful, as is the score by James Newton Howard. Sound design, costume design, editing; it all meshes together really well, and lavish set pieces such as a ballet performance or a tense hotel room encounter really shine.

My biggest misgiving with Red Sparrow is its sheer punishing nature; not only is it long (clocking in at nearly two-and-a-half hours), but it's incredibly grubby, unsettling and violent at times.

Sexual violence, politics and grimy misdeeds are a persistent undercurrent throughout the film and the 'sexiness' is often undercut by a hearty helping of aggression or seediness. Gut-wrenching and stomach-churning don't even begin to cover it. I'd wager a lot of audiences won't be able to stomach the graphic violence and nudity, especially when they are stacked alongside one another as they are here.

The pacing doesn't help matters either; I know things are cold in Moscow but that doesn't mean the plot has to move at such as glacial pace. Don't go in expecting wall-to-wall action, that's for sure.

The Verdict: 6/10

Hot on the heels of mother!, Jennifer Lawrence continues to plough deeper into her divisive new direction. Red Sparrow is slow, brutal, gorgeous, unforgiving and inscrutable. Beautiful cinematography and a great score by James Newton Howard will please the eyes and ears while the plot and pacing will test your patience and make your skin crawl.

Red Sparrow is in cinemas across Australia now.


  1. I'll probably wait to check this out on DVD, I'm sure Jennifer is great as always in it.

    1. Good idea – it's not an easy watch in the cinema, and there's one scene in particular I wouldn't have minded being able to pause and walk away for a bit haha.

  2. It's funny because I wasn't looking forward to it thinking it would be an average espionage thriller but your review got me interested. I can like brutal and unsettling movies, and slow paced ones, if done right. But sex and violence is a tricky combo, so we'll see.

    I do love Jennifer Lawrence's career choices lately, she was incredible in mother!.

    1. Yeah I can see this one definitely dividing audiences – interested to know what you thought!



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