This is a review of Jennifer Lawrence’s latest film Red Sparrow. Following her recent films that have ranged from incredible to awful Lawrence returns in this spy thriller. Thankfully this is a return to form and is an early contender for film of the year.
This is a departure from recent spy films such as Jason Bourne and Spectre. It is a dark, intense, brutal and emotionally traumatising entry that allows the stars of the film to showcase their acting talent.
The story follows Dominika Egorova who is the Bolshoi’ prima ballerina who suffers a career ending injury in the prime of her career. Unable to support herself or her sick mother, she is approached by her uncle to seduce a Russian politician and swap his phone for a duplicate by the Russian secret service. For this, her uncle promises to look after her and her mother. She reluctantly accepts but whilst meeting the politician he begins to rape her before he is murdered by an agent.
With the government wanting all witnesses killed she is given two options. Die or become a sparrow. She chooses the latter. The rest of the story follows her brutal training, deception and her mission to uncover a mole in the secret service who is working for the Americans.
In the current environmental with raised awareness of abuse of women this film uncomfortably shows the abuse and manipulated of women by men in government. Whilst much of the critics criticism of this film is the use of Jennifer Lawrence sex symbol status, this is far from the truth. The exploitation of her character is an integral part to this storyline and how sometimes people’s free choice is heavily influenced and manipulated by people in power.
Lawrence’s performance is scarily realistic. Her ability to portray and switch character from an innocent woman, sexually abused, tortured and vulnerable to a manipulative, vicious murderer who uses her sexuality to get what she wants allows the viewer to empathise and be shocked by her transformation.
Joel Edgerton provides a strong love interest for Lawrence who is determined to protect his mole whilst falling for Lawrence who has been sent to kill them. His ability to demonstrate his internal moral turmoil is a joy and his chemistry with Lawrence is fantastic. Jeremy Irons adds maturity and although fleeting is a stand out performance in the film.
This film for me is a throw back to the character driven spy thrillers. What stands out is that for vast portions of the film you are unsure who is the hero and who is the villain and whether Lawrence will stay loyal to Russia. The lines between good and evil are also blurred. To do the right thing sometimes everyone must do evil, brutal and inhuman acts. Although it makes for uncomfortable viewing it heightens the realism that is lacking from so many modern films. Where franchises such as marvel extended universe have turned serious life or death situations in to comedy sketches, this ratchets up the realism and darkness.
I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. It is an uncompromising, brutal spy thriller that blurs the lines between good and evil, right or wrong and everything in between. The music and lack thereof adds to the atmosphere and sense that everything is closing in on Lawrence. The lack of action also allows the audience to appreciate the storytelling whilst keeping them on the tip of their toes. If I could recommend one film that has been released in 2018 so far, it would be Red Sparrow by a country mile.