Red Sparrow Movie Review
A well-crafted spy thriller that features plenty of twists and turns, loads of double agenting and a strong performance by a Russian-accented Jennifer Lawrence, Red Sparrow has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, it also feels like it is four goddamned hours long.
The movie wastes no time getting started as director Francis Lawrence (who directed other Lawrence in the final three Hunger Games) stages an impressive opening that draws you in and lays out what you’re about to experience—a thriller that is light on action but heavy on intrigue, centered on the singularly defiant Dominika Egorova, who goes from ballet star to seductress to something else entirely by the time the movie’s sixteen hours has run its course.
Red Sparrow works best when it is operating at efficiency, which means for much of the first half. While it’s challenging to understand how the training scenarios Dominika undergoes, in which an emotionless Charlotte Ramping forces her and the other sparrow trainees how to give blow jobs and allow themselves to be raped (as Lawrence’s character later describes it, “whore school”), prepares her to be a field agent, the movie cranks along with a satisfying intensity, relying more on Lawrence’s presence than fast-paced thrills.
It’s when Dominika starts her mission and begins interacting with CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) that Red Sparrow oddly starts to sputter. Just when things should ramp up, Lawrence the director seemingly takes the foot off the pedal. The pace remains aggressive, the story dynamics continue and Lawrence and Edgerton have solid chemistry, but the movie takes a long time—and a lot of back-and-forth turns—to get to the inevitable. Dominika never makes her hatred toward her Russian masters a secret, which takes some of the intrigue away in regard to her ultimate motives or decision making. What results is a somewhat predictable second half that has the filmmakers doing everything they can to make it appear as anything but.
The movie does boast a terrific climax, however, and a satisfying violent torture/action scene in the third act.
Despite a great cast, a solid screenplay and effective direction by Francis Lawrence, Red Sparrow suffers from a drawn-out second half that really tests your patience. Had the filmmakers tightened and streamlined, perhaps cutting out one or two or seven of the “I’m making the other side think I’m doing this” explanation scenes and whittled the film down to under two hours, Red Sparrow would have whistled a fine tune. As is, it’s a decent but somewhat tedious affair.
One last thought: Oddly, had Red Sparrow’s semi-smart story been combined with the action and style of last year’s dumb-as-sin Atomic Blonde, audiences would have gotten quite a movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.