Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Francis Lawrence|
|Screenplay by||Justin Haythe|
|Based on||Red Sparrow
by Jason Matthews
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Alan Edward Bell|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$57.1 million|
Red Sparrow is a 2018 American spythriller film directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. The film stars an ensemble cast made up of Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeremy Irons. It tells the story of a Russian intelligence officer who is sent to make contact with a CIA agent in the hope of discovering the identity of a mole.
Red Sparrow premiered at Newseum in Washington, D.C. on February 15, 2018, and was released in the United States on March 2, 2018. The film has grossed $57 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who called it “more style than substance”, criticizing the film’s length and over-reliance on graphic violence and sex, but praised Jennifer Lawrence’s performance.
In modern-day Russia, Dominika Egorova is a famed Russian ballerina who supports her sick mother. Following a career-ending injury, she is approached by her uncle, Ivan, who works in Russian intelligence. She is tasked with seducing Dimitry Ustinov, a Russian politician, and covertly replacing his phone with a state-provided phone, in exchange for her mother’s medical care. As Dimitry rapes her, he is killed by Simyonov, a Russian operative authorized by Ivan. After they escape, Ivan reveals that he intended to kill Ustinov all along, and Dominka was now under threat as Russian intelligence demands there be no witnesses. Ivan offers Dominika a choice to begin working for Russian intelligence, or be executed.
Nate Nash is a CIA operative working in Moscow. While meeting with an asset in Gorky Park, they are confronted by the police. Nash creates a diversion to ensure his asset, a mole in Russian ranks code-named Marble, escapes detection. Nash is reassigned back to the US but because Marble does not trust anybody else, Marble does not contact any other operatives at the CIA. Nash insists that he is the only individual whom Marble will work with, and is assigned to Budapest (as he can’t go back to Russia) to regain contact with Marble.
Dominika is sent to train to become a Russian operative, known as a ‘Sparrow,’ capable of seducing her targets. Dominika excels in her training, despite resistance to some elements, such as refusing to strip in front of her class, and fighting off a classmate who attempts to rape her. Despite her issues in training, Dominika is assigned to Budapest. Russian SVR has been tracking Nash, and hopes to find out the identity of Marble. Dominika’s assignment is to gain the trust of Nash, and reveal his contact.
Upon her arrival in Budapest, Dominika lives with Marta, another Sparrow. Dominika quickly makes contact with Nash, who correctly determines that she is a Russian intelligence operative. Dominika reveals her true identity to him, as well as her motive to find out Marble’s identity. While Marta is out, Dominika inspects her room, and realizes that she is working to gather information from Stephanie Boucher, a chief of staff for a US Senator. After a surprise visit from Ivan demanding results, Dominika realises she needs more time, and claims she is helping in Marta’s effort to gather information from Boucher; this angers Marta, who believes Dominika is trying to steal her assignment. To gain her confidence Dominika reveals to Marta that she had witnessed Ustinov’s murder and hence is vulnerable to be executed if she’s thought be not useful to the Russian intelligence. Upon returning home one day, Dominika finds Marta brutally tortured and murdered. Simyonov reveals that he carried out the murder as a warning not to betray Russian secrets.
Dominika offers her services to the CIA to work as a double agent. She carries out Marta’s assignment to meet Boucher, and covertly exchanges the supplied information for CIA-supplied floppy disks. However, the CIA operatives are sloppy while monitoring and approaching Boucher, who gets spooked and runs into traffic, getting killed. Realizing that the mission with Boucher had been compromised by Dominika, Russian intelligence returns her to Moscow to be tortured and interrogated. She repeatedly denies compromising Boucher, and convinces Ivan that she is now credible with the Americans, as she has been tortured by her own people and not revealing information. Dominika returns to Budapest, and informs Nash that she wishes to defect with her mother to America.
After spending the night with Nash, Dominika awakes to find him being tortured by Simyonov, who is attempting to find the identity of Marble. Despite initially appearing to work with Simyonov, Dominika attacks and kills the Russian operative. At the hospital, General Vladimir Korchnoi reveals that he is Marble. He explains that he was initially patriotic, but grew to feel that Russia was corrupt. He fears he would be caught soon, and instead of dying in vain, wants Dominika to reveal his identity to Ivan; in return, the promotion she would receive for outing a high-ranking mole would allow her to replace Marble as a mole and further their work by passing information to the CIA.
Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is amazing, but that is about it. There is no impending doom, or sense of urgency at all, and the movie just lacks anything compelling, unless you just like hearing JLaw’s Russian accent and seeing her naked. I can’t give this more than 3.5 stars. Even though I wanted Red Sparrow to be great, it was just good. -MR