RED SPARROW

★★★½

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons
Directed by Francis Lawrence
2018 / 139 Minutes / 20th Century Fox

Review by Elise

Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian ballerina who ironically breaks her leg during a performance and is offered the chance to become a spy by her uncle who works for the government. With her career effectively over, she will lose her apartment and medical access for her sick mother that was sponsored by the ballet company, so she takes the opportunity and enrols in Whore School (this line was in the movie!).

At Sparrow School she and other students are taught that their bodies belong to the state and they will now use them as sexual weapons. Joel Edgerton also plays a spy who works for the American government and tries to recruit Lawrence over to the “good guys”.

This is where the plot becomes a bit fuzzy for me because there was a lot of “double crossing” and “not really double crossing” plus a “is this real?” romance between Lawrence and Edgerton. I suppose that’s what the filmmaker may have intended, to keep us wondering about their relationship, but then there’s an even further twist later on in the film that only appears in flashback and not actually in the movie. It makes me think he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing.

I’m quite tired of the trope of women using their sexuality to gain the upper hand, but this movie was a bit different in that there were men also enrolled in the same school. Too bad we didn’t get to see any of the male students put their homework to use other than one attempting to rape Lawrence in a scene that served absolutely no purpose.

I was also a bit confused about when this movie was supposed to take place. I assumed modern times as they had fairly modern technology but then a major plot point hinges on the swapping out of floppy disks!! It’s nice to see a floppy disk in a movie again, I hope they make a comeback.

There is some pretty brutal violence in this film, including scenes of interrogative torture, but there’s also a well choreographed knife-fight scene that had me on the edge of my seat. I much prefer this style of action instead of people just getting shot in the head over and over again.

Overall this movie is just a bit bland and a bit hard to follow. Not because the plot is immensely confusing, but because it’s not paced very well and it was hard to keep my attention focused. It features a great performance by Jennifer Lawrence, as always, Joel Edgerton is a sympathetic “good guy” and we also get a couple great appearances by Mary Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons.

This is a pretty good but not great spy thriller.

Grade B-

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