Published on February 23rd, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
In Red Sparrow, Jennifer Lawrence (of Hunger Games fame) portrays Russian ballet dancer Dominika who is grievously injured at the peak of her career. Without the ability to continue dancing, she is at risk of losing not only her home, but the medical care that her sickly mother so desperately needs. In a final act of desperation, she reaches out to her uncle (masterfully portrayed by Matthias Schoenaerts), who is not only family, but also the deputy director of Russia’s intelligence agency, the SVR. He offers the means to not only keep them housed, but also to ensure that her mother continues to get the very best treatment and care from her private nurses. With no other option but to agree, she reluctantly takes an assignment to “entertain” a powerful Russian figure with the intent to swap out his cell phone, with another provided by her uncle. In an emotionally intense scene she witnesses a heinous act of murder and is forced to make a decision, join those who carried out the murder and become a Red Sparrow or die.
Dominika is then sent to the training school where all Red Sparrows learn their craft. They are taught manipulation by any means necessary, identifying what their target desires and utilizing this desire to get what they want. It’s brutal training that few succeed at, where each pupil uses their body and their minds to get information from their subjects. Dominika’s personal strength of both will and body are tested, until a call comes in from the SVR that they are in need of her newly acquired talents. She is given an opportunity to prove her worth to the state by traveling to Budapest, to get close to a C.I.A. agent, and convince him to give up the name of a mole who has been providing secrets to the Americans. This is where the dangerous game of cat and mouse starts between her and her C.I.A. target Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton).
Jennifer Lawrence in her portrayal of a strong, yet desperate Russian woman is both believable and saddening. She mastered her Russian accent and it comes across naturally. The audience sees the constant struggle between what she must do to protect her mother and the lengths that she must go to, to acquire the information the SVR needs to rout out the mole. Her character goes through numerous physical, emotional and psychological tortures as she grows closer to her end game. For a Red Sparrow failure is not an option, as failure means death.
As a spy movie, it regularly keeps you guessing up until the very end. You keep asking yourself whether Nate will be able to turn Dominika against her country and become an operative for the C.I.A., or is she simply playing the part as the sparrow and using his trust against him? As an audience member you never truly know who to trust or which side Dominika is on, and that’s what keeps the movie so intriguing throughout.
“Red Sparrow” is one of those rare films that keeps you on the edge of your seat through the entire film. As soon as you think you know where it’s going you are suddenly turned in another direction. You think you know the answers, only to be wrong the next minute…or are you? Red Sparrow is by far one of the best spy movies that I have seen in a long time. Even though there isn’t a lot of action it provides the intrigue of an intense chess game, planning multiple moves ahead to arrive at checkmate in the very end, and to that end it succeeds brilliantly.
4.5 out of 5 stars