There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) was a magnificent ballet dancer in Russia. She was the pride of her family and the people she danced for were funding her mother’s medical treatment. During a performance, her dance partner inadvertently stepped on her ankle, tragically breaking it. After the devastating injury, Dominika would be able to recover, but she never quite got back to the way she was before the injury. She could walk and live a normal life, but she would never be able to dance again, at least not to the caliber that she could before. Desperate to find a way to continue to support her mother’s medical treatment, Dominika’s uncle reaches out to give her an opportunity. Her uncle is Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), a high ranking Russian official who was able to pull some strings and get Dominika into the Sparrow program.
Dominika would need training, but she would be a top secret Russian spy that utilizes the art of seduction to earn trust, get information from targets, and infiltrate organizations. She reluctantly accepts the offer in order to provide for her mother, after which she is given her first mission. She is to get close to an American CIA agent named Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). However, when the two meet, they seem to have real chemistry together, or is Dominika simply doing what she was trained to do?
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Jennifer Lawrence (+4pts)
Origin Story (-6pts)
The Premise (+3pts)
Joel Edgerton (+4pts)
Pro: Jennifer Lawrence (+4pts)
Overall, her performance will not blow you away here. This was an overall stale movie, but Jennifer Lawrence was able to give the movie barely enough life to keep me interested. During all of the filler scenes, Jennifer Lawrence was nothing special. There were, however, plenty of harsh and twisted scenes in which Dominika must endure some cruel punishment.
Whether it was sexual agony (due to unwanted sexual experiences) or physical torture, Dominika did not have a very good time during the events of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence did a decent job of capturing the reluctance, fear, pain, and tragedy that this character experiences. Jennifer Lawrence was able to carry the audience through the movie due to these scenes alone. Again, the performance will not blow anyone away, but it was enough to keep me invested in the character throughout the movie’s duration.
Con: Origin Story (-6pts)
A lot of this movie felt like filler. It was at its best when it was focusing on Dominika and Nate. The uncertainty of Dominika’s intentions was the most entertaining part of this movie. For some reason, the filmmakers decided that we needed a full origin story for the main character. The film was two hours, with about an hour and a half feeling like filler. We did not need to see Dominika dancing and we did not need to see the Sparrow school.
By giving us those things, the movie felt longer than it was. It felt slow, and focus was taken away from the relationship between Nate and Dominika. The filmmakers could have easily started the movie with Dominika being assigned to Nate. They could have spent the majority of the movie developing the relationship between the two characters which would have made the ending more impactful. Instead we got an almost meaningless origin story for the main character that used up precious screentime, when it could have been covered in five minutes worth of flashbacks, or even just an opening montage sequence at the start of the movie.
Pro: The Premise (+3pts)
I think my favorite part of this movie was its premise. I was a little disappointed by the execution of that premise, but I was still interested in it anyway. Dominika was assigned to get close to Nate. Nate knew she was a Sparrow, but took a liking to her nonetheless. The mystery behind Dominika‘s intentions was my favorite part of this movie. Nate was trying to help her, and the audience will not want to see him taken advantage of, but I could not help but think it was going to happen anyway. It became a bit of a guessing game as to whether or not she would betray him, but it was still a bit of fun, even though it did not get much attention.
Cons: Predictable (-6pts)
Have I mentioned that I enjoyed the premise of this movie? Well I did, but I was definitely disappointed with the execution for more than just the lack of focus that was given to the mystery of Dominika’s intentions. The filmmakers also made her intentions a bit too obvious. By getting her full origin story, we knew her mindset fairly well.
Audiences will not know with complete certainty, but you will have a pretty good guess as to which way Dominika will go in the end. The filmmakers had a good premise here. Their first mistake was not giving it much focus, but their second mistake was taking a lot of the steam out of the mystery. By having a good idea of which way Dominika would go, the audience will simply not be as invested in the movie as they could have been.
Pro: Joel Edgerton (+4pts)
I liked Joel Edgerton quite a bit in this movie. Audiences may have a tough time relating to Dominika, due to her cold exterior, but it was easy to relate to Nate. He was an American CIA agent tasked with being the point of contact for a Russian informant, but he ended up falling under Dominika’s spell. He knew who and what she was, but wanted to save her from her difficult situation. He may have been a little naive, but he was just trying to do the right thing and most audiences will be able to connect with that.
Joel Edgerton always does a great job and I do not think he gets enough credit. He played a socially awkward psychopath in The Gift, but he was able to flip the audiences opinions of that character. He also played the greedy corporate executive in Gringo, and he did that well also. He has played so many different characters throughout the years and there just is not time to mention them all. In this movie, he was the relatable center of the story. This was Dominika’s story, but it was about her relationship with Nate, and Joel Edgerton played the role well.
Con: Russia (-4pts)
Russia felt like one big stereotype in this movie. There was not one nice shot of the country. Everything looked cold, dark, and unpleasant. That does not even include the people. The Russian characters were the stereotypical mean Russian spies. They were pretty much pure evil and hated America. They were just bad for the sake of being bad and it felt like two hours of anti-Russia propaganda.
Imagine how much more interesting this movie would be if you understood both sides. Imagine if Dominika was torn between America, whose government is trying to help her, and Russia, a country that she loved but was in the middle of a cold government program. Instead of getting an inner struggle, it seemed that Dominika chose sides within the first thirty minutes. Rather than give us something different, the movie felt like one big stereotype which was kind of disappointing.
Grade: C- (70pts)
I had high hopes for Red Sparrow, but it ended up being a pretty big disappointment. The premise was certainly interesting. A Russian spy was trained in the art of seduction to get close to her targets, and her target was a CIA agent who wanted to save her from her harsh life. The mystery of not knowing her intentions was an interesting concept, but the filmmakers executed it poorly. They gave us too much of Dominika’s backstory. This was unnecessary, hurt the pacing of the movie, made the movie feel long, and it also gave away the mystery of the main character’s intentions because we knew what she was thinking.
Jennifer Lawrence did a good job of carrying the audience’s interest to the end. Some of her scenes felt lifeless, but I thought she did a great job during the more tragic moments. Joel Edgerton played the character that audiences will relate to. The character was a little naive, but he was always trying to do the right thing, and audiences will pretty easily be able to connect with that. The movie had a good premise with strong potential, but I thought the filmmakers dropped the ball with that premise, as they delivered a movie with a lot of problems.