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Review - 'Red Sparrow'

Review - 'Red Sparrow'

I've been to plenty of movies that are unoriginal yet they are still able to hold my interest, Red Sparrow is unoriginal and it nearly bored me to tears. Maybe it's just me but it's hard to be invested in a film that has a generally languid pace that also happens to run at a butt-numbing two-hours-and-twenty-minutes AND contains performances that are competent yet so cold that you want to reach down and check for a pulse.

The film tells the story of Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a prima ballerina who suffers a career-ending injury. Seeing potential in her, her uncle recruits her to be a Red Sparrow: under-cover Russian agents who master many skills and utilize their sexuality to take advantage of their subjects and extract classified information. Dominika is sent to the United States to gather information on an American agent who is suspected of working with a mole within Russia.

Red Sparrow is a cold and brutal movie that has a lot on its mind but can't seem to find the proper outlet. The dark and slow-burning way in which the film unravels would be good if the story were easier to follow and had a better hook. The plot is confusing, so much so that I couldn't quite tell if it was clever or just plain preposterous. There is so much about Red Sparrow that just doesn't really seem to make sense to me. Still, I couldn't hate the film too much because I could tell that some serious thought and craft went into it. 

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Despite being convoluted, overlong and very slow for vast stretches of its run-time, Red Sparrow has the occasional flurry of bare-knuckled action and biting tension that pulls you back in. And even though it puts you back to bed immediately afterwards there are some truly memorable sequences in this film that stand with the best that the espionage genre has to offer. There's an absolutely brutal and innovative torture scene followed by a vicious knife attack that still has me cringing just thinking about it. 

Jennifer Lawrence is pretty damn good as Dominika Egorova, even when her attempted Russian accent makes her sound somewhat blasé for most of her dialogue. She plays the part with an undeniable confidence. There are some out there that say this film is misogynistic in the way that the camera seems to find lust-y angles of Lawrence in various stages of undress, but I really didn't get the sense that that was Francis Lawrence's intention. I think he saw a woman that was willing to commit so fully to the part that he chose not want to hide any aspect of her performance, which just happens to be an inherently sexual one.

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Joel Edgerton plays the American agent, Nate Nash (yes, I laughed at that name, too). He's fine, nothing more and nothing less. Edgerton is typically a great actor and he's definitely not bad here, but it seems like he really didn't have too much to work with. Jeremy Irons is also in this move, albeit in a borderline cameo capacity, and he pretty much plays the Jeremy Irons you know and love. I could have used more of him, though. 

One thing that can't be denied about Red Sparrow is that it is visually arresting. Francis Lawrence and cinematographer Joe Willems have nailed the look and feel that they were going for. In all honesty, the cinematography in this film might be the reason I stayed awake, it truly does look superb.

Red Sparrow is an overly convoluted picture that struggles to make sense of its own plot. It's also a hard sell due to its lengthy run-time and snail-like pacing. That said, there are some truly exceptional sequences, a pretty great Jennifer Lawrence performance and some great cinematography to feast your eyes on. 

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