Francis Lawrence’s spy thriller, “Red Sparrow,” hit theaters on March 2. The film starred Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton and was based on a 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. It has received only $110.2 million worldwide and has received slightly below average reviews from critics.
“Red Sparrow” follows fictional famous ballerina, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) who can no longer dance after an unfortunate accident. Through her mysterious uncle, Ivan Egorov (Matthias Schoeonaerts) she becomes a witness in the murder of a politician and has to either work for the Russian Intelligence or be killed. Dominika then goes through training at “Sparrow School,” which trains the former ballerina in the art of manipulation and seduction to help Russia. Now working as a Russian spy, Dominika learns that a CIA agent, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) is the only person she can trust and the story evolves from there.
The film was wildly disappointing. Instead of “Red Sparrow” being an action-packed, mysterious thriller about Russian spies, it was a waste of time. The film didn’t have much action in it, which would be fine if the plot didn’t drag throughout most of the film. What was told in over two hours could have easily been cut in half, maybe less. There was a lot of expositional information given that the audience didn’t need and subplots that didn’t affect the story whatsoever. The only times the film didn’t drag incredibly slow was when the film depicted insanely violent or sexual situations. Because the film couldn’t find balance between the two extremes, the rhythm of the film felt awkward and poorly written. Even the acting was less than impressive because the structure and rhythm were off.
The characters were also lackluster. The minor characters used for tormenting Dominika were extremely bland. They could have all been the same character, and no one would have known the difference. Nash, who becomes Dominika’s love interest, and Ivan Egorova, Dominika’s uncle, were both flat and static. Neither character became a dynamic part of the film nor changed in any impactful way.
Issues with side characters would have been acceptable if the main character, Dominika, was multifaceted, interesting and dynamic. Unfortunately, she wasn’t. She was difficult for the audience to connect to and rarely showed emotions that weren’t fear or anger. The audience can’t even get a sense of her character from the thoughts or actions of other characters. Egorova sees her as a weapon and Nash is blinded by his affection for her. The most dynamic moments for Dominika throughout the whole film were when she was in Sparrow School and later being tortured by Russian intelligence, but, even then, these scenes humanize her while not adding much to her character. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance added to the muddiness of Dominika’s character. It seemed that, like the audience, Lawrence also wasn’t sure who Dominika was.
Dominika’s character and the film overall didn’t do a fair job with Dominika’s character or with how she portrayed a women. For the majority of the film, Dominika was shown in submissive, highly sexual situations which is downright degrading. For the other portion, she was seen as an emotionless, angry and scarily violent woman. All other facets of her personality were so minimalized, they were barely present. Because of this, “Red Sparrow” forces two of the biggest negative stereotypes of women into one character. This could be attributed to the content and location of the film, but filmmakers should be more aware of these types of things in 2018.
Despite all this, the film wasn’t completely terrible. It functioned as a plot and was easy to follow, despite the story getting somewhat convoluted. The soundtrack also fit supremely well with the film while the visuals, although not particularly remarkable, were still beautiful. Plotwise, the ending was the standout portion of the film. There is a plot twist that is surprisingly impressive compared to the film’s overall average quality.
All in all, “Red Sparrow” is an unremarkable and skippable spy thriller. With bad rhythm, poorly defined characters, a dragging plotline and a poor representation of women, it falls on the line between being neither particularly good nor horrendously bad.