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Movie Review | Red Sparrow

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is tortured by her own superiors to learn what she knows in Red Sparrow

Summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to 'Sparrow School,' a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations. (IMDb)

Red Sparrow is a tricky film for me to write about because it is objectively not that good, with numerous obvious flaws that hold it back from being anything special, yet I still enjoyed it a lot and can’t quite explain why. Maybe it just scratched an itch I didn’t know about?

Much like Atomic Blonde, I think it tries to be a little too clever for its own good, with a couple of twists that seem somewhat superfluous to the story being told. I know this film is based on a novel, so it might just be keeping close to the source material, but it doesn’t quite work as a movie.

It leads to the film dragging a little too, and feels like it goes on a lot longer than its actual two hour and twenty minutes running time. I never found it to be particularly boring, but it is very slow. And not in a good way, like Blade Runner 2049 and that film's extended shots allowing for greater atmosphere, but more like it just needed to be edited a touch more ruthlessly.

Also, with so many Russian roles, why couldn’t Russian-speaking actors have been cast instead of getting English speakers to put on accents of varying quality? This might seem like a little thing, and you do almost get used to it eventually, but it’s again one of those things that never sits right.

It doesn’t really affect the acting from the cast though. For example, this is the most I’ve enjoyed a Jennifer Lawrence performance in years, even if she doesn’t feel right for the role of a ballerina. It’s nothing spectacular, but then again, the role doesn’t demand anything amazing either.

The rest of the performances are all pretty good too, but the movie is more concerned with plot than character, so none of them are really given any material to shine with either, instead relying on the cast’s natural talents to bring whatever they can to the role.

It's no surprise that Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) catches her target's attention looking like this in Red Sparrow

Now, that might seem like a lot of criticism for a film that I liked – and I haven’t even mentioned the forgettable score either! Yet there’s something about this particular female-led spy film that just worked for me and somehow made it more than the sum of its parts.

I can’t explain exactly what it is, but I liked it even more than Atomic Blonde, which had issues of its own. This isn’t writer’s block preventing me from articulating exactly what I enjoyed, but rather that the movie has an intangible x-factor that just kept me interested when similar movies would have lost my interest well before the end.

In fact, Red Sparrow serves as a perfect example of why it’s best to read the text of a review rather than simply look at the score. To repeat what I’ve said before, the number I choose is shorthand for my personal opinion of the film based on my own experience watching it and not an objective assessment working down a checklist of what it did right or wrong.

This movie does have a lot of flaws that I can easily recognise as issues that should serve to detract from the material. There will be many people who dislike this film a lot more than me, and I will completely understand why – and I don’t have any valid counter-arguments either!

Red Sparrow is a ponderously long movie filled with too many twists and turns to take seriously, with barely any work done with the characters. This leaves it a relatively soulless affair and yet it somehow worked to at least make it watchable for me, and something I would be happy to watch again.




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