REVIEW: ‘Red Sparrow’ Is A Dreary, Unmemorable Cinema Experience

With a name like “Red Sparrow,” you’d think this film wouldn’t be so colorless.

The picture stars Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova, a Russian woman who works as a ballet dancer. Her career is cut short, though, because of a devastating injury and as a result, it puts her future and her ability to care for her ailing mother in jeopardy.

As a way out, Dominika is offered an opportunity to become a spy by her uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) who works in Russian intelligence. Dominika agrees and after a short time is sent on a mission to target an American agent named Nate (Joel Edgerton).

When I mentioned that the film is colorless, I meant that in more ways than one. Despite being a spy thriller, “Red Sparrow” is a largely dull picture. The story, for example, is a fairly straight forward and is somewhat hard to buy.

First of all, Dominika becoming an expert spy feels quite rushed and it makes the suspension of disbelief difficult. Second, the film’s story tries to throw in a lot of twists and turns to keep an audience guessing on where Dominika’s allegiances are, but many of the attempted curve-balls can be seen from afar and it’s not difficult to predict where she stands.

There’s nothing quite shocking or new about this picture, in the end it feels like just another forgettable spy flick. For example, the movie has a typical sequence where important data has to be transferred to something else. It’s simply generic.

The look of the film was also quite drained. I wasn’t much of a fan of last year’s “Atomic Blonde,” but I could at least say that it had an artistic, visual flair. That’s not the case with “Red Sparrow,” so much of the movie is grey and there is very little in terms of memorable cinematography.

The picture was also light on action, which in the end means that this is a spy film with little in terms of fights to keep a viewer visually entertained and is also without a smart enough story to keep an audience engaged.

The talent in front of the camera do the best with what they have at least, and the script isn’t too bad. There are plenty of good performers here, Lawrence for example is fine in the lead role, despite the Russian accent seeming a bit odd from her. While her character was somewhat hard to believe with the switch from dancer to spy being too seamless, Lawrence’s performance at least makes Dominika compelling. Unfortunately, Edgerton is a bit hit or miss and doesn’t have very strong chemistry with Lawrence.

The ones who really shine are Jeremy Irons as a Russian general and Schoenaerts. Irons is always reliable in these types of roles and this time was no different, he brings certain stoicism that always seems to fit. Schoenaerts, meanwhile, is 100 percent perfect as the Russian intelligence officer. He nails the man who holds a lot of state secrets.

Despite the acting abilities of “Red Sparrow” performers being strong, though, it’s not enough to save a rather dreary, boring spy movie. 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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