Red Sparrow


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Red Sparrow
"The lady can't keep her clothes on. It's part of the training"

Voyeuristic torture porn with Jennifer Lawrence? No, no... please.

Yes, yes... sadly. The lady can't keep her clothes on. It's part of the training.

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Dominika is Russian. She's the prima ballerina at the Bolshoi. Or was. She broke a leg on stage when a leap into her partner's arms went badly wrong and they crashed. Afterwards her career was toast.

"I want to be special again," she says.

How about becoming an agent? A special agent. Her uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) has influence. He finds a place for her in spy school.

Guess who is the head mistress at spy school?

"You will know me as Matron," Charlotte Rampling orders.

There are no natives here, only British and Irish luvvies - Ciaran Hinds, Jeremy Irons, Douglas Hodge, Joley Richardson - playing Russians. The film has an old fashioned feel. It could be a Cold War thriller, circa The Ipcress File.

The students at spy school are taught how to bait a honey trap.

"Your body belongs to the state, " they are told.

This means they learn how to sell sex with style and how to pleasure a man.

Dominika has a sick mother which gives the authorities a hold over her. Blackmail is their weapon of choice after the rough stuff has failed.

The film is more than two hours long and you feel every minute. The plot hangs by a thread and then drops into the abyss. You don't understand much. There is a mole in the SVR (secret police?). There is a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) attempting to recruit Dominika. People are tortured and killed left, right and in-ya-face. When Dominika seduces someone who isn't old and fat does she feel anything? She has been taught to lie and fake it. How can you tell?

The only emotion that has genuine warmth is between mother and daughter. Cloaks and daggers are less effective than hand-to-hand combat, or bodies in the sack.

Lawrence's expression seldom changes. It's the look of Katniss Everdeen.

"Every human being is a puzzle of need."

Who said that?

Does it matter?

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2018
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Red Sparrow packshot
A former ballerina is recruited into Russia's spy school where students learn the artifice of the honey trap

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writer: Justin Haythe, based on the book by Jason Matthews

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Joely Richardson, Ciaran Hinds, Douglas Hodge, Bill Camp, Mary-Louise Parker, Sakina Jaffrey, Nicole O'Neill, Sasha Frolove

Year: 2018

Runtime: 139 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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