Mon | Jan 18, 2021

I-spy sexual intensity in 'Red Sparrow'

Published:Sunday | March 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from the spy thriller 'Red Sparrow'.

To many of us, the life of a spy has always seemed glamorous. That is not entirely so for ballerina Dominika Egorova, played by Jennifer Lawrence. When an unfortunate accident leaves her unable to take the stage, she's left with little options to look after her ailing mother. In desperation, she accepts recruitment as a Red Sparrow, a kind of Russian intelligence agent trained in the art of seduction.

Commendably, Red Sparrow is not an action film. There are no extended shoot-outs or intensely choreographed fight scenes. Instead, Red Sparrow is a quiet, foreboding film that substitutes mindless action for intense punishment, inflicted on the main character, as much as on her adversaries. For the first hour of the film, you watch as Dominika endures the harshest training imaginable. She is ruined physically, emotionally, and psychologically, desperate to hold on to to herself before she is broken completely.

As heavy as that sounds, the film goes even darker. Make no mistake - this is an adult film, and more mature than one might expect. That's something that works to the film's benefit when maintaining the tone, but it definitely wears on the audience. I was engaged the entire time despite the slow pace, but after a certain level of cinematic misery, the melancholy of the film would set in.

Red Sparrow is a deadly serious take on a spy movie, though it's a pity its story was not so special. The second half of the movie takes all the goodwill built up by the first and sort of squanders it. It's not entirely a wash. Plenty of the performances in the film are exceedingly good, aside from a few distractingly terrible Russian accents. If only the film had stuck the landing, I would have recommended it highly. As it stands, it's a film I think has some very good elements, but, as a whole, feels incomplete.

Rating: Half-price