Quote from Red Sparrow by Matron: “Every human being is a puzzle of need. You must become the missing piece, and they will tell you everything.”
There are three things that peak my interest: Russia, espionage, and ballet. The fact all three are condensed into two hours and 20 minutes was all positive. I was going to like this movie no matter what especially the espionage part. I believe humans are first genetics and second their profession. If you have difficulty with X, it’s often a part of your being, and deep inside. It will bleed into other parts of your life if you haven’t addressed whatever is behind X. For example, if you like to be in control and the power it provides, seeking positions with control and power will probably happen. If you let both get inside of your head where it becomes the size of an inflated balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then you have some issues. This is somewhat the case for Dominika because all she wanted to be was to be a dancer, but a dancer in control. She possessed discipline, but with physical limitations. Like others before her in this Sparrow program, sacrifice is tested, and acceptance is learned. There are many ways to be dutiful to your family (blood related) as there are ways to be dutiful to your country. Life turns into something when you least expect it, but how well you round the corners is what really matters.
Red Sparrow is a drama, mystery, and thriller taking place in Moscow and Budapest. The movie centers around Dominika Egorova, a ballet dancer turned secret operative, whose main objective is to get close to an American operative, Nate Nash. It’s an adaptation of Jason Matthews’s book with the same title and script written by Justin Haythe. The director is Francis Lawrence. The major cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons, and Kristof Konrad. It has an R rating for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language, and some graphic nudity. While not the longest movie I’ve seen, get somewhat comfortable as the running time is 140 minutes.
There’s enough moving pieces to keep the story moving forward, but not too many that you get bogged down in who is who and what did who do and why and when. It’s not surprising you find a power struggle occurring not only among Dominika’s family members, but among the Russian officials as well as among the American officials. As with any movie about espionage, its rooted in the tricky area of trust and loyalty between usually two males having to put their fears aside. Russian women have their place too in this male dominated profession. Dominika goes through rigorous training to become the femme fatale, carrying herself with equal stoicism once she leaves Sparrow. Her lack of emotion, at times, makes you wonder if this is a defense mechanism or something learned from the school. I suspect it’s a little bit of both as she finds herself drenched in unwanted body odors and subjected to physical pain while on her own. She is the dutiful Russian in a red dress as she continues to forge ahead, sometimes alone and sometimes with Nate Nash, knowing her capabilities. Their meeting was inevitable as both sides, Russians and Americans, eventually agree to this covert relationship. It proves to be a bit of intrigue with each other, although never sure of Dominika’s true intentions or how Nate would respond to her. The people on the periphery had equal importance and influence on Dominika as those in her inner circle. It wasn’t until the last scenes that I understood her decision, whom she made it for, and why it happened. I will say it set up for a nice sequel, but time will tell.
The draw of this movie was the story and actors/actresses involved. Charlotte Rampling playing the matron stood out as one of the best supporting roles I’ve seen in a while. Her training method of instilling conformity through ridicule and submission is the self-sacrifice demanded by herself and others. She more than likely was a Sparrow herself. The same goes for Matthias Schoenaerts as Ivan Egorov. He demanded nothing other than excellence from Dominika, but flexed his masculinity when she threatened his status quo. These scenes were some of the best. You also want to know what’s going to happen to Dominika and Nate. Their relationship could end on a good note or a very sour one. You can’t really go wrong with espionage because most people like secrets and want to know all the juicy details. While the heyday of the Russian and American arms race has long passed, the current relevancy of Red Sparrow shouldn’t be thought of as farcical. According to CIA operatives, this was a way for the Kremlin to gain intelligence back in the day, and should be no surprise Russia has a vested interest in cyber crime as do most other countries. It can be terrifying to think about on one level, but then again I’m not too surprised about human behavior and the lengths we go to.
While I enjoyed Red Sparrow, for the most part, I did find a handful of elements missing. I wish there had been more focus on Dominika, in a precise and skilled manner, kicking ass with her hands and legs. It’s not that I needed to see blood spilled, but I wanted more than her being forced to seduce men and take apart a gun quickly. I don’t know exactly what went into the Sparrow program, but I would think an asset who could fully protect herself would be a necessity. Maybe she was given that training, but I never saw it outside of rebellion. I would’ve liked another fight scene between Dominika and someone close to her. There was a scene near the end where she showcased her talents, if you can call them this. I wanted more of that or something similar. I did like the movie enough to recommend this to adults, not children for obvious reasons, with the mindset it’s a drama rooted in psychological motive and part mystery. There weren’t as many twists and turns as I would’ve like, but it was adequate for what played out. Last and last, the raunchy sexual activity, as my friend alluded. It was sort of a no-brainer to me. Sex sells and so does nudity. Next butt, please. I mean next movie in this trilogy, please.
Red Sparrow gets three fingers at 80%.