- 3.5 out of 5
Red Sparrow - another brave choice by Jennifer Lawrence
Red Sparrow is the latest film from director Francis Lawrence who directed the last three Hunger Games films, which also starred Jennifer Lawrence. Far from the teenage pulp of the Twilight saga, The Hunger Games had a real edge to it. In particular the first installment in 2012.
Fast forward to 2018 and it's as if the Cold War has never gone away, a fact Charlotte Rampling's character reminds us in one of her many monologues to her students. I'm getting ahead of myself.
The story concerns a ballerina Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) who suffers an apparent accident that ends her career as a Prima Ballerina. In order to support her sick mother (a tired film trope), she is recruited to 'Sparrow School,' a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.
The plot itself is secondary to what is going on on the screen. We have a fine cast including Ms Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Joel Edgerton, and Ciaran Hinds, all of whom speak in a faux Russian accent. It irritates for a short while but became less so once the film got moving. Rampling and Irons are a delight, both revelling in stereotypical characters. I was surprised to see any scenery left intact. What saves them is the script which is long on exposition but at the same time delivers character development.
Lawrence has made some very brave choices in her career to date and she is to be lauded for that. Given her status, she could have sat on her successful laurels and done the ubiquitous rom-coms. We should all be grateful that she continues to choose roles that stretch her talents and move her out of her comfort zone. Who can forget last year's mother!, Darren Aronofsky's opus. That introduced us to a new dimension in Lawrence's performance. Here, the challenge is her body and what she has to do on screen. Her character is asked to give everything to the cause and on film, Lawrence does likewise.
Some folks went to see mother! expecting a Scream-like horror movie with JLo. It was nothing like that. Aronofsky's film divided audiences and I think Red Sparrow will do so to. This is not Atomic Blonde or Jane Bond with Jennifer Lawrence. This is full-on psychological thriller and is quite nasty in places. I like my psychological thrillers and my horror films but even I winced a few times.
In Ireland and the UK, Red Sparrow received 16 certification. It is high-end 16, almost 18, so parents and guardians be warned.
I went with the plot, thought I had the twist figured out but was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
I hope Jennifer Lawrence remains brave.