After dusting away the restrictions of the Hunger Games franchise, Jennifer Lawrence went on to star in her most explosive and daring film to date: Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Now, she is back in the custody of Francis Lawrence, the man who failed to utilise her talents over the course of three blockbusters.
Talented ballerina Dominika Egorova’s entire life is challenged when her career comes tumbling down on stage in an image of tragedy and broken bones. She is then given an illusion of choice; to become a Sparrow, or to deprive her ill mother of a home and professional care. The Russian intelligence service – the Sparrows – train her to seduce and destroy, transforming her body into the perfect deadly weapon. Her first mission, however, is a complex one. She must target and beguile a C.I.A. agent (Joel Edgerton), but as the task becomes entangled in a web of further deceit, the security of both nations is threatened.
There is one thing that the director promises with the film’s title; “Red”. The colour carries connotations of seduction, sex and blood, of which the film has in abundance. Violence is depicted unflinchingly, and will be sure to turn audiences stomachs as the grisly methods of torture grow more creative. The film benefits from teasing high levels of violence earlier in the narrative to add tension to scenes, as the repercussions of actions are understood to become more and more severe. It’s great to see a spy-thriller that is willing to portray violence so realistically, and it’s a good thing too, because there really isn’t much else to add any sense of danger.
The portion of the narrative set at the academy is rather entertaining, and the process the candidates undergo to become drones of the state is intriguing. Lawrence’s Dominika exhibits a defiant and ruthless personality during these scenes, and as she becomes more collected, the more the narrative promises exciting conflicts to come. Sadly, the film is never as enthralling for the rest of the run-time, which constitutes the bulk of the entire narrative. It never feels as if there is anything substantial occurring, even behind the scenes, and for a spy film to work, you must be invested in the mission. Lawrence’s character falls into the trap of becoming a pawn of greater things, and the less important she feels, the more tedious and predictable the entire affair becomes. There is no surprise in any of the reveals, and Lawrence naively seems to think that he has hidden away the narrative’s secrets through slick direction, but there is never any doubt to be shed on whose role is whose. Luckily the film looks impressive for the most part, and the cinematography lends a grandeur to the lush interiors that Dominika navigates with deadpan cool.
When Dominika is thrust into a world of spies and danger, she is completely unversed to it. However, she adapts, and realises her true potential; the same cannot be said of director Francis Lawrence. This is not a world he knows, or is even sure of. It shows. It feels like an attempt at serious drama whilst blending in the aspirations of the likes of last year’s Atomic Blonde, which was also underwhelming, albeit for different reasons. There is a lack of success here to merit, and for such an ambitious run-time, there is a foolishness to mock. Red Sparrow is a delicate bird with a broken wing, and even the star power of the highest-paid actress in the world cannot mend it – a dull slog of a film.