Red Sparrow (2018) – Film Review
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts
by Roger Crow
What happens when a Russian ballet dancer with a sick mother suffers a career-ending injury? She becomes a spy of course, thanks to her uncle, Ivan, who works in Russian intelligence.
That’s the career path chosen by Dominika Egorova, the ever watchable Jennifer Lawrence. For the first hour, her path from pirouettes to spy school and then out in the field is mostly intriguing. Her ordeals suffered at spy school are pretty degrading as she learns the art of seduction under the tutelage of Charlotte Rampling’s emotionless expert.
She’s tasked with seducing American spy Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton); he’s tasked with gleaning information from her. Following that promising first hour, I sit through another 100 minutes of torture porn; Jennifer and Joel facing eye-watering pain, and internecine shenanigans.
Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ booms over the speakers at one point. Aptly I fight to stay awake through the second act, and long before the finale, I’ve already considered walking out. Some cinema goers do; there are two of us left by the time the lights come up.
Red Sparrow is overly complicated, and wants to have the class of great John Le Carre, but it’s no Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It also feels like Atomic Blonde with all the fun removed.
Jennifer Lawrence is as mesmerising as ever, and retains her dignity even when the story demands her character has none. It’s a pretty miserable experience with the score ramped up to deafening levels in the hope it adds class to a joyless thriller.
A split second before Ciaran Hinds appears on screen I guess he’ll turn up at some point because he plays good Russians in better films like The Sum of All Fears. And there he is, which is scant consolation as the film drags on.
Jeremy Irons shows up as another Russian VIP, and I’m also taken out of the moment with a bit part from Holby City’s Hugh Quarshie.
I’m no espionage expert, but I do know there is a gaping hole in the premise of sending a famous ballerina undercover as a spy. Any intelligence service worth their salt will run facial recognition software over a suspect’s photo on the off-chance she’s in their database.
Red Sparrow is an excruciating experience for the most part. No matter how slick or sexy the trailer is, it’s not reason enough to waste 140 minutes of your life. Barge poles required.