Sacrifice is the name of Jennifer Lawrence’s game in the thriller, “Red Sparrow.”
One of my favorite high school memories is digesting the meticulous detail that Tom Clancy put in to his novels. He understood espionage, detente, and by in large, diplomacy. As his books developed, the main character transformed from a desk jockey to someone held in very high esteem in the diplomatic community. Francis Lawrence’s “Red Sparrow” follows similar attributes, but manages to do it in a 140 -minute feature length film.
The story, written by Justin Haythe and based on Jason Matthews’ novel of the same name, is a simple story, but also plays as an exercise in patience as its intricacies are played out. Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominikia Egorova, a famed Russian ballerina who is recruited into the Russian Intelligence network who, after a period of indoctrination, is tasked with seducing a CIA agent, Nate Nash, played by Joel Edgerton.
Mr. Lawrence’s direction allows us to reflect on the events in the film, probably more than we should be allowed to. However, this is in service to Dominika’s experience as she navigates the cold, icy diplomatic waters, so I can accept this aspect. The intricate details of the film reminded me of the characters and situations that inhabited John le Carre’s, Robert Ludlum’s and Frederick Forsyth’s stories. Mr. Lawrence and Ms. Lawrence captured the essence of these characters and situations.
There are moments where the film turns into a soft-core porn which serves to harden Dominika’s resolve. As we dig deeper into the film, we find that we didn’t necessarily need the services of Charlotte Rampling’s “Matron” character. Though I did appreciate her Rosa Klebb-like take on the role because it steels Dominika for any future situation.
Matthias Schoenaerts is a welcome addition to the cast, even though he spends the majority of the film lurking in the shadows. As a professional spook, that is his function and he plays it well. His cool and collected take on the role is a nice counterbalance for Joel Edgerton’s Nash.
In a sense, the story feels timeless because the world’s governments will never truly trust one another, so diplomacy and sacrifice will remain prevalent. Yet, from the Russian vantage point, “governments change, the lies stay the same.”
It’s a quote from the James Bond film, “GoldenEye,” but it equally applies to “Red Sparrow” in that its story seems to be temporary because Dominika’s character is given an objective that the story cannot truly aspire to achieve. And yet, we’re lead to believe that we shouldn’t mind this because of her sacrifice and the story’s intrigue. Jo Willem’s grand cinematography captures the varying contrasts and elevates the detailed story, while James Newton Howard’s score evokes the globe-trotting adventures of the past.
“Red Sparrow” is the type of adult thriller that will appeal to a wide audience. It’s length and detail might deter that very same audience. Patience has its virtues and this is a time where I can confidently say that the payoff justifies your box office sacrifice in the name of film going.
Now in theaters, “Red Sparrow” is rated R by the MPAA.