Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.
Jennifer Lawrence is a Russian ballerina, working to support her mother. When her career is cut short by an apparent accident, her uncle, a member of a KGB-esque spy organization, recruits her to help seduce a particular government official. Things go wrong, however, when the operation, which Lawrence was told would be a simple phone swap, turns out to be an assassination; an assassination that there aren’t supposed to be any witnesses to. So she is given a choice, die, or join an organization of “sparrows,” special operatives who are trained to use their bodies to seduce and gain intel. After a long, arduous training regimen, which includes several humiliating, degrading sex acts with strangers, Lawrence is sent to Hungary to find a mole. There, she encounters an American CIA operative, played by Joel Edgerton, who is also looking for the mole. Seeing in him an opportunity to find her target, Lawrence begins to seduce him. As the two get closer, however, she realizes that things may be a bit more complicated than previously thought.
You wouldn’t think it would be possible for a film to be both shockingly lurid, and ass-numbingly boring at the same time. But, by god, Francis Lawrence, the director of this movie, found a way to do just that. Because, at it’s heart, Red Sparrow is a Cold-War thriller about trying to find a mole. That’s it. It’s just a story about two spies trying to find someone. That’s about as run-of-the-mill a narrative as you can get for these types of movies. The only thing that sets this flick apart from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a million other movies about trying to find moles is the explicit sexuality. And the insane thing is, for all the time we spend in the beginning, watching Lawrence get used and abused, and hardened into a sexual weapon, that element really doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot. When she finds out who the mole is, it isn’t through her training. The person in question just comes up and tells her. I’m not exaggerating when I say that if you took the very long, very uncomfortable first half out of the movie, the main plot, the quest to find the mole, would be effected in no way whatsoever. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that the first half, wherein we see Lawrence training, is brutal. People in my theater actually got up and left after certain sequences. I did as well after the second, yes, second, rape scene. It’s very, very hard to watch. And seeing as how it has almost nothing to do with the main story, it just comes off as needlessly cruel and exploitative.
Now I do want to be fair and list some of this film’s positive qualities. The music, composed by James Newton Howard, is beautiful, and it really helps elevate certain moments that would otherwise just be kind of dull. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the costumes and sets are very, very impressive. In many ways, this film is similar to Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, which I reviewed here on this blog. That film was also an erotic spy thriller with good acting, good camerawork, good costumes and good sets, but a less than compelling narrative, and some very uncomfortable sex scenes. The biggest difference between this film and that one, though, is the fact that Lust, Caution actually took the time to develop it’s characters before it dove into the sex. You saw these peoples lives before the main plot, and you saw them struggling with inner turmoil. As I said in my review for that film, it’s not until about 2 hours in that we get any sex at all. In this picture, not only is the narrative uninspired, and the sexual politics questionable, but you don’t really know anything about the main character. The film almost builds a wall around her identity, with her motivations in certain sequences being rather unclear. And even when her motivations are clear, there aren’t always repercussions for the things she does as a result of those motives. In one scene, for instance, she finds out that her old dance partner was sleeping with her replacement, and that the two of them might have been the cause of her accident. So, in a blind rage, she goes an attacks them, seemingly beating them to death. Now, you’d think this would be a major event in her life, since it’s before she gets recruited by the government, and, as far as we can tell, she’s never hurt anyone like that, but no. It never comes back into play at all. And when you realize that, you begin to wonder why it was in the movie. And the film is littered with moments like that, moments where logic is just thrown out the window.
So, in the end, I can’t really recommend this movie to you all. If you’re a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, or Cold War Thrillers, which I’m not even sure this is, since characters in the film say “the Cold war is over” and they use technology that wouldn’t have existed back then, maybe you’ll like it. If, on the other hand, you can’t stand to see rape in movies, want plots that are a little more inspired, and Russian accents that actually sound convincing , maybe look elsewhere.