If there are two things in this world my mum makes no secret she enjoys watching, it's people hurting themselves on camera (a vehement denial but an inconcealable truth) and spy films. Being an only child of a single parent, and a quite mature (or at least I would like to believe) one at that, for as long as I can remember we have watched spy films together - it’s a tried, tested and often tired genre. So how does 'Red Sparrow' stand out from the rest?
Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence, 'The Hunger Games' franchise, 'Mother', 'Silver Linings Playbook') is a prima ballerina until her life takes an unexpected turn for the worst and she is forced to become a Sparrow - a highly trained seductive Russian spy - in order to look after her ill mother. While on a mission, she meets American Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton, 'The Gift', 'The Great Gatsby', 'Zero Dark Thirty') who attempts to convince her to become a double agent.
It reads like an absolute classic spy tale; desperate circumstances call for desperate measures in which desperate people are willing to do anything. But something sets ‘Red Sparrow’ apart. There is a pace to the film that, while slow, allows for a certain grace to be added to the film. This grace is carried through the score and the script with deft direction to tie everything together nicely – and everything should tie together nicely; it is a spy film after all.
The grace of ‘Red Sparrow‘ is counterbalanced by the absolute brutality that is quite graphically shown. It’s like having your jaw broken by a bottle of Verve wrapped in a layer of silk. So brutal, in fact, that the two people seated directly in front of me stood up and left in what can only be thought of as a very unap-peeling scene. With the audience gasping and chuckling in disbelief, it was enough to let you know to never become too complacent in your seat, and to work. A great spy film should always make the audience work.
Not only should we the audience have to work, but so too should the actors. I’m going to say this first off: I love JLaw I think she’s proven she can do anything, and I wont be surprised if in 20 to 30 years she is the next Meryl Streep. But for me, I don’t think this role was too much of a stretch - she’s a powerful woman, and has played powerful women before. Don’t get me wrong, I love and surround myself with powerful women, but playing a strong role such as this so often doesn’t stand out from the rest of her body of work - although going along with the unapologetic nature of the rest of the film, she does show us more than I think we’ve ever seen of her before. The rest of the cast is also ludicrously talented. Jeremy Irons ('Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ', 'The Lion King', 'Dungeons and Dragons') is so good as the ageing general and Charlotte Rampling ('Assassin’s Creed', Melancholia') as the stern “Matron” are brilliant casting choices and could probably (much like JLaw) do anything. The only thing the entire cast is let down by at some stage or another are the accents, be it Russian or otherwise - it’s a small gripe but when a film is of this calibre, much like blood on snow, it stands out.
Watching this film is like having your jaw broken by a bottle of Verve wrapped in a layer of silk.
What I ended up enjoying most from this movie was that, despite all her training, Dominika still really couldn’t fight; her methods were more seductive and, following suit, so was the film. There was an authenticity to this small detail that made the whole thing more believable (certain scenes aside that I’ve been instructed not to mention). ‘Red Sparrow’ is a long, slow and deep breath of fresh air in a genre that has become too reliant on fast-paced action and explosions. You’ll be guessing until the last minute, and glued to your seat until the concussion has been reached - definitely not a film to fly away from.