Odd, isn’t it? For those of us born during the Cold War, it is almost comforting to have the Russians back as the bad guys. You just never were quite sure if you could trust those guys or not, at least in the movies. (I interrupt this review to bring you an important rant. Have you noticed “preview creep” lately at the theater? We used to have 12 minutes of previews, then 15, then 20. Lately, the previews are hitting 22 minutes and beyond. Enough is enough! They are doing their best to force us to stay home and watch Netflix. And now back to our regularly scheduled review.) Red Sparrow is based upon the writings of a CIA agent about the Russian program. This is book one. Whether or not there will be Red Sparrow 2 depends on the box office. I liked it; the critics are very mixed.
Dominika is an accomplished ballet dancer. Injured onstage, she faces the loss of her apartment and her mother’s doctors. Uncle Ivan, known to be a spy, offers his help if she will become a Sparrow, trained to seduce and obtain information valuable to the State. The training, referred to as “whore school,” is demeaning and Dominika looks for a way out. She is sent to Budapest to intercept Nate, a known CIA spy who is handling a mole in the Russian government. Nate immediately discovers her background and tries to turn her into a double agent. Can he trust her? Can either side trust her?
Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika, and if you can get past the terrible accent, plays a woman who is boiling beneath the surface, with good reason. Joel Edgerton is Nate. For some reason, I just didn’t see his character as a spy; he seemed more like a newspaper reporter. Matthias Schoenaerts is Ivan, and is solid as the slimy uncle. Two fine actors that need more screen time are Jeremy Irons and Ciaran Hinds, both superiors to Ivan. Charlotte Rampling as the Matron of the Sparrow school was cast well as was Mary Louise Parker as a Chief of Staff for a US Senator.
While I admit that I am biased against horror movies, I also admit that I am biased in favor of spy movies. Probably the result of too many James Bond movies as a kid. You need to be forewarned that besides nudity, you will witness rapes and torture, neither easy to watch. The aforementioned critics clearly downgraded the movie because of perceived gratuitous sex and violence, especially given today’s climate. Given that countries have used females to seduce government officials for centuries, it certainly is not surprising that a “school” was established in Russia, and likely elsewhere. As they say, “light is the best disinfectant” and the director was trying to show how degrading this “training” was. Could he have been a little more circumspect? Yes, but this is Hollywood. Bottom line–if you like agents and double agents, feints and double-crosses, surprises and plot twists, you will overlook its faults. At 140 minutes, the movie sped by for me. As soon as I finish my Orphan X books, I may give these books a look-see.