International espionage is not a glamorous game of intrigue, flowing champagne and knowing winks. It is wrought full of danger and requires a keen eye while keeping one step ahead of the politics game. Based off the book written by a former CIA Agent, Red Sparrow, is a another thrilling story from the mind of someone who seen and done things no ordinary citizen would imagine. After watching Red Sparrow, I would rather remain very much in the dark.
This was simply the most uncomfortable movie to sit through. The movie spared no expense on emphasizing the chilling physical torture that can be implemented on a human being. Most of my time watching Red Sparrow was tightly shutting my eyes behind my hands as I heard sounds of skin being sliced off and all other sorts of nasty ambient noise that will continue to echo in my nightmares.
Red Sparrow is not for the faint of hear. It is for those who can handle all of the uncomfortable viewing triggers. There is a rape scene, very graphic torture scenes involving skin grafting tools, water torture, and blunt trauma.
As is the ever steady trend in Hollywood, Red Sparrow is the movie adaptation of the debut novel written by Jason Matthews, a former CIA Operative. With decades of years in the field, Matthews joins the history of CIA and undercover agents turned author. This movie was experienced without reading the book so comparisons between novel source and film adaptation cannot be made. If the movie version reflects the same cold and chilling human torture, then I will gladly pass on this book.
Famed for her talent and dancing skills, Dominika Egorova’s legend as a ballerina abruptly ends in an accident as her leg is shattered. Juggling with caring for her invalid mother and dealing with her own reality, Dominika is approached by her uncle to be recruited into Russian’s secret service. The service wishES to use Dominka’s fame to get access to a high ranking official. In exchange, they promise Dominika’s safety and continued care for her mother. The situation escalates quickly resulting in Dominika being caught in a situation that she cannot slip out of.
The title of the movie is Red Sparrow and the movie swiftly leads Dominika to the hidden state school. The assumption is that there would be emphasis on the education that Dominika would receive at the “school”. The school makes it obvious that its sole purpose is to teach their students to analyze their targets through human behavior using sexual manipulation. We are informed that not only are these students admitted based on their beauty, they have a military background. Dominika is a “special case.” I was anticipating intricate analysis and sophisticated tactics of sex. Instead, it was a means to show the cold and demanding nature of the country. “Russia demands this of you,” was a repeating dialogue throughout the brief time period at the school.
The lessons are centered around a bare classroom headed by the stern headmaster. Students are expected to strip away their morals, their pride, and even humanity as they are forced to perform sexual acts that challenge their boundaries. The cinematography is definitely on point with its stark coldness and focal points of Russian Nationalism. The flag stands out in the drab landscape of dull uniforms and background. Yet even when the lessons become increasingly challenging, Dominika holds tight to her pride and moral ethics, refusing to bend to the demands of the sexual acts. She only conducts the acts on her terms, her own control. A glimpse of rebellion and strength in a spirrt and body that has been battered and will continue to be so in the movie.
The movie was also a challenge in how far the audience can believe that Jennifer Lawrence can play a convincing Russian woman as Dominka Egorova. A Russian woman was who esteemed for her beauty and her ethereal grace as a treasured ballerina. All of which Lawrence did not even come close to portraying. Lawrence does have a dance double courtesy of Isabella Boylston, who is an absolute star in ballet (her Instagram, @isabellaboylston is full of stunning photos in strength and grace). Even though Lawrence is not a ballet dancer, there should have been shadows of a “ballet dancer” in her daily life. There was a particular scene in the movie where Dominika is walking down a grand staircase. She has just watched ballet dancers perform their art on stage. One would expect joy and sadness of a dancer who’s star was taken from her. One expects that as this dancer walks down the staircase, her movements would be smooth, sure, and beauty. Instead, I could not help but just see Lawrence clomping down the stairs.
She is supposed to be a Red Sparrow. According to the exposition from the side characters, Red Sparrows are mysterious, beautiful, and have amazing sexual skills. Lawrence exudes none of this in the movie. Her gait is ramrod straight, her eyes dull and her expression slack. Yet somehow, she was supposed to have captured the attention of those around her. It is not to say that Lawrence is not beautiful. There were many scenes, including naked ones, where it displayed Lawrence’s fantastic body. It was no wonder she was able to pull off wearing such amazing clothing. Her legs were pretty miles long. It’s just, I really do not see how she is considered a Red Sparrow.
There was supposed to a romance with the American agent, Nate. I cannot even connect how it could have happened or why. If this was supposed to be indication of underlying lies and layers, then kudos, it succeeded. I supposed Nate was supposed to be the lucky one who she liberated her pent up sexual energy upon. It must have been pretty built up for it was dispensed in less than three minutes in an emotion-less act upon a coach.
Up until the climax of the movie, Dominika has failed to really prove why she would be considered such an asset to the service. Alas, as an audience we are set to be fooled along, Due to a montage sequence at the end, we see that we have also been duped to believe she was a weak character that was being dragged along. She had a grand scheme after all. It just lacked any satisfying feel. Scenes had dragged out so long at that point, that it was just another scene to absorb.
For a story that was touted to be a such a page turner, Red Sparrow, was not so much an espionage story but more of a way to show the torture and how cold-hearted Russia is. With the current tension of Russian intervention in American politics, this movie adaptation seemed more of an excuse to add another log into the fire of Cold War hysteria.