Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Thekla Reuten, Jeremy Irons
Run Time: 140 mins
Red Sparrow is the latest in Jennifer Lawrence’s post-Hunger Games career, who consistently proves to pick courageous yet controversial projects. Recently, Lawrence starred in Passengers, a film that many reacted badly too due to a central element in the plot which I managed to get on board with. More obviously controversial was Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a film designed to shock which also recieved a mixed response. For Lawrence to pick a project filled with sexual and bloody violence is certainly brave. Lawrence reunites with her Hunger Games director, Francis Lawrence, in this spy thriller about a girl who is entrapped by her Uncle to work as a ‘Sparrow’ for the Russian government. Her mission is to uncover the identity of a Russian mole working for the Americans. The spy / action thriller genre has been at a high recently and particularly pertinent following hot off the heels from Atomic Blonde with a female lead character.
Red Sparrow is a slow-burn which might infuriate viewers but I found it to be consistently entertaining if not a little meandering both in narrative and in pace. It boasts some intelligent twists up its sleeve but they are a little late in the game. The film has a lengthy 140 minute run time and whilst it is atmospheric in parts, it also trudges through some of its narrative and isn’t consistently gripping.
The cast are all sound here but like with a lot of Russian spy films, there are some wonky accents on display here. Lawrence fares well, proving yet again to be a charismatic lead who is empathetic. Schoenaerts makes for a very sinister yet calm and calculated character, proving again why he is a top talent. Whilst Joel Edgerton is one of the finest actors (and director) we have, his character is a little underwritten but he does the best with what he has. As fine actors as Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling are, their accents are all over the place and seem to only be in this for the cheque.
The film is very grim for a 15 rating, with some particularly disturbing and nasty sequences of violence, torture and sexual violence. The film pulls no punches and I was surprised for a 15 just how much it pushed the boundary. This is a good thing and puts a different spin on the spy thriller genre and all of this violence has meaning to elevate the plot.
Red Sparrow isn’t quite the knockout it should be, considering the talent on-board but it is consistently entertaining and does pull some unexpected punches up its sleeve. For a mainstream film, it is very daring in its violence which is a good thing but for those watching simply as fans of Jennifer Lawrence, the film will definitely be a surprise. With a tighter plot and pacing, Red Sparrow has all the ingredients of a great film but is ultimately flawed.