Movie Review: Red Sparrow
If you are expecting an erotic thriller, as strongly suggested by the trailer, you will be disappointed.
Yes, we do see Jennifer Lawrence in various stages of undress, but her wardrobe is not for mere, cheap audience titillation. As depicted by her character Dominika, sex or sexual advances are part of the arsenal of skills that pretty Russian spies possess.
In Red Sparrow, women own their sexuality to gain power and dominion over men, especially those who seek to sexually assault them. What a timely message.
After the box-office disaster Mother!, this action thriller is extremely accessible. The plot is straightforward and simplistic - you do whatever it takes to survive.
Lawrence is at her best playing a survivor, one who adapts to life's circumstances.
She did it in Winter's Bone, where she earned her first Oscar nomination. She was also a survivor in the X-Men movies, David O'Russell's films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, and of course, as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
Her role here mirrors her Hunger Games performance most, perhaps due to the films' director, Francis Lawrence.
Here, the actress is extremely confident and in great form.
Her often stony face masks the struggles Dominika undergoes, especially in the "whore school" headed by the great Charlotte Rampling's Matron, whose teachings include telling the recruits that "physical manipulation isn't enough". One must "learn to love on command", all for the sake of the Motherland.
Love comes in the form of Joel Edgerton's CIA spy Nate, whom Dominika is supposed to spy on. Matthias Schoenaerts, as Dominika's highly ranked Russian officer uncle, is empathetic as the bad guy, stealing the limelight from Edgerton.
Schoenaerts' magnetic chemistry with Lawrence helps move this film along. His dreaminess is also a big plus against the bland Edgerton.
Red Sparrow is set up to become a possible franchise, and I do hope it does well enough as it is always welcome to see Lawrence in such roles.
MOVIE: Red Sparrow
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Joely Richardson
DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
THE SKINNY: After a leg injury derails prima ballerina Dominika's glorious career, she is recruited into Sparrow School, a secret Russian organisation that trains pretty women and men in the fine art of espionage using their looks and body as weapons.