"An Excruciating Two and Half Hours"
What You Need To Know:
RED SPARROW has a great cast and a surprising twist ending. The cast is terrific, and there are positive messages extolling the individual freedom Americans get and the importance of treating people well. However, to get to any redeeming aspects, viewers must slog through nauseating violence, including terribly graphic sexual violence. RED SPARROW is an excessive, unacceptable movie people should avoid.
RED SPARROW is a spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence that has its unpredictable twists and turns, but makes the audience sit through the worst slime to get there.
The beginning sequence introduces Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a very talented Russian ballerina who lives with her sickly mother and Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA operative in Moscow trying to receive intel from a secret contact in the Russian government. In this opening montage, however, Nate and his contact are nearly discovered by the police, and he must retreat to the American embassy. Meanwhile, in the middle of Dominika’s performance, a fellow dancer “accidentally” jumps on her leg, breaking it badly.
Dominika’s leg is so badly damaged, her career is certainly over. The movie reveals Dominika’s capacity for violence when she discovers her fellow performer broke her leg on purpose because he’s in love with the dancer that would take Dominika’s place. She responds by violently beating the two dancers with her cane in a shower.
Her uncle, Ivan Egorov, who works for the SVR (Russian Foreign Intelligence Service), manipulates Dominika to help him on an operation where all she’ll have to do is sleep with the target and replace his phone with a fake one. Not really having a choice, she agrees, but the operation turns into an assassination, with the target being strangled.
Because Dominika was a witness to an assassination, she’s a loose end. However, her uncle allows her to live if she agrees to go to a Sparrow School, which trains men and women in sexual manipulation to seduce the enemy to get intel from other countries.
The school turns out to be rather brutal. If you fail, you are killed. To succeed, you must completely give your body over to the state. Dominika, however, is stubborn and refuses to give herself sexually to the men who try to force her. Despite this, her cunning ability to read people advances her, and she’s given an assignment by her uncle.
The CIA operative Nate Nash is in Budapest. Dominika is ordered to get close to him, seduce him and find out who the Russian mole is. Dominika obeys her orders and gets close to Nate, but Nate immediately finds out who she is. So, he convinces his superiors to let him try to flip Dominika to their side.
Dominika and Nate get close, but not in a traditional romantic way, more in an ability to trust each other. Dominika just wants to protect her mother, and Nate wants to protect his secret contact’s life and identity and Dominika’s life.
However, the superiors grow more impatient and the Russians need the mole’s identity. So, the stakes are raised, but who’s really trustworthy and who isn’t?
RED SPARROW has a great cast. Jennifer Lawrence’s Russian accent is a bit distracting at first, but once you get used to it, she turns out to be the perfect actress for the role. Matthias Schoenaerts and Jeremy Irons make terrific Russian villains. The romantic relationship between Dominika and Nate, however, is a bit stretched, and it’s hard to see why either of the two like each other, other than their physical attractiveness. The movie takes its sweet time building the suspense, but the twist ending doesn’t disappoint. However, because the romantic relationship is weak, there’s an emotional resonance missing to the movie.
Surprisingly, there’s some positive moral messages in RED SPARROW. First, Nate genuinely cares for his informants and contacts. Also, America is shown in a pretty positive light when compared to the grotesque measures the Soviet government takes. The Russian mole in the movie praises America’s individual freedom and abhors what Russia has become. Finally, Dominika won’t give herself sexually as a way to manipulate targets. While many spy thrillers will conjure up provocative sexual situations with its female leads or co-leads, Dominika has a bit more self-respect. That said, the movie is still chalk full of sexual content and brief excessive nudity.
The biggest and most unforgivable problem in RED SPARROW is the movie’s grotesque violence, including the sexual violence viewers have to endure to get to the ending. The violence is nauseating, with multiple torture scenes that are excruciating to watch. Even more abhorrent is the movie’s wicked depiction of sexual violence, which crosses many lines. The sexual violence includes a rape scene, a woman nearly being forced to perform oral sex on a homosexual man and another attempted rape scene. Two depicted consensual sex scenes complete the loathsome content. Add to the fact that there’s two depicted consensual sex scenes, RED SPARROW Thus, even with some positive messages, RED SPARROW is an excessive, unacceptable movie that all moviegoers should avoid.