"Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power." -Oscar Wilde
"Red Sparrow" is the newest film from the creative duo Jennifer Lawrence and Francis Lawrence (no relation) who brought the "Hunger Games" franchise to the silver screen. But if you think that "Red Sparrow" is like the "Hunger Games in anyway you'd be very wrong. Instead of dealing in teen violence and dystopia, "Red Sparrow" trades these themes for brutality, sex, and power and thank god it does. Lawrence and Lawrence seem incredibly at home in their new mature and violent environment. Using the themes to push themselves and the content they are making to heights they haven't yet reached.
The film starts off intensely and brilliantly as parallels the actions of JLaw's Ballerina with those of Edgerton's CIA agent. As they each go about their business the action cuts back and forth the intensity slowly builds as their actions become more and more drastic and dramatic. It builds until a climax for both characters that really works at setting them up for the rest of the film. While the rest of the film may have a few pacing problems those are non-existent during the opening minutes, it clips along and gets you adjusted to the brutal world and its characters quickly and efficiently.
Those characters are also incredibly interesting and well-portrayed. JLaw’s Sparrow is both empathetic and brutal, Lawrence plays this spy with enough humanity to make you root for her. But at the same time she keeps a mystique and intrigue that kept me guessing throughout the film as to where her true alliances lied. She uses her sexuality as a weapon and wields it effectively and effortlessly. Even when she is nude she doesn’t seem vulnerable but rather powerful which is an accomplishment on her and Francis Lawrence’s part. This is some of her best work in years and it really should be seen as she plays a spy like few others I’ve seen in a long time. The movie puts her through hell and she still comes out the other side with a sense that she is charge somehow. Her force and presence in this film are something I hope she brings to all her other upcoming projects.
Edgerton on the other hand plays a vulnerable and somewhat idealistic spy who seeks to help Lawrence’s character and flip her for the American Government. It’s interesting to see his tenderness played against Lawrence’s ruthlessness especially considering the switch of the normal gender roles. He is being coaxed and played by Lawrence at every turn and yet he doesn’t seem to mind because of Lawrence’s presence lures him in. They make for a dynamic duo that’s incredibly fun to watch.
When I said this movie was brutal, I wasn’t lying. It holds absolutely nothing back, from torture scenes to assault and hand to hand combat. You feel the impact of most of these blows. Especially a pair of pretty brutal interrogation scene that happen later in the films runtime that are really visceral. But it isn’t just violence for the sake of violence, it establishes the stakes and world that these characters inhabit. It made me scared for Lawrence and the consequences of her actions which helps build the tension and really ramp up some of the scenes that could have been mundane. The brutality is also made more clear and apparent by Francis Lawrence’s patient and steady camera, it adds a lot to see how unflinching and clinical the style of this film is (this is also true of his stellar composition).
But this movie is not without it’s problems, there are times when the pacing really hinders some fo the momentum being built by the film. Instead of steadily getting faster and faster in how it goes along, there are points where the film purposely slows down for no reason. While I will always appreciate a movie that takes it’s time and has a slow burn pace, this movie doesn’t use it effectively. It leads to some story complications and a certain trend that keeps repeating itself within the movie that I found to get a little ridiculous towards the end. I also felt that her transformation from dancer to spy was too quick and felt semi-rushed. Which is odd considering the film is decently long (2 hours and 16 minutes to be exact). But the ends justify the means as the film kept me interested and guessing as to what would happen. I found this film to be an intrigue laden look at sexual politics, power dynamics, and control set against the back drop of our modern Cold War and struggle for intelligence with the Russians. Buoyed by two great lead performances and a brutal story. “Red Sparrow” is a spy thriller that you won’t want to miss. [B+]
Al Pacino Rating: