Red sparrow is a weird, brave and complicated offering in today’s market, which is why I have complex feelings about this movie. I should say upfront that overall I’m not recommending the movie, however if you find yourself interested in it, then I highly recommend watching it in a movie theater; not only because brave and fresh work should be supported and given the chance to win you over, but also because I can see this movie becoming a cult hit for some viewers-just not me.
Having said that, Red sparrow is another team up between Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence and star Jennifer Lawrence, about a Russian ballerina drafted into a Sparrow school-a secret intelligence organization that trains young people to use their minds and bodies to achieve their goals. This is as much as I knew going into the movie and I do believe it was the right amount of information to know, as this movie is a twisting and surprising spy thriller; just not a very good one. In my mind, this movie can be separated into two parts; the first one I enjoyed and the second one let me down.
Starting with the first one, the movie goes to great lengths to set up Lawrence’s character-Dominika; what motivates her, what she is good at and what she is not. All the while, the movie sets up these incredibly awkward and disturbing events that deal with some interesting questions about sexuality, traumatic events and their impact on a person and some other themes that are best left unspoiled. I found this first half to be extremely interesting and a good introduction to the world and themes of the movie, which are further enhanced by a fearless performance by Lawrence and really good performances by Jeremy Irons and Joel Edgerton in particular. The movie also consistently looks and sounds great; Jo Willems and James Newton Howard, respectively, can be very proud of their contributions. However, the second half of the movie was, incredibly disappointing due to the fact that the plot relies on the changes in personality and actions of a specific character to drive forward its central mystery and conclude it; however this character’s actions and changes in personality come too fast to follow along in a satisfying manner. Thus the twists and turns of the plot are structured in a way where up until the final moments you’re never sure what is really going on and once the twists and turns of the movie are explained, you realize that the movie didn’t,theoretically, cheat but they feel unearned and they end up just moments in a sequence; they happen one after the other and you move on. I’m not confused on what happened or how, I’m wondering why it happened and when it was decided.
That will probably become much more clear in a second viewing, but no movie can or should be judged on how it holds up after two viewings and for me, Red Sparrow did not make me want to see it a second time.
In summary, I found this movie to be competent and adequate on most aspects like beautiful cinematography and a great musical score enhancing overall great performances and a good enough direction of a solid premise and script. However the second half of the movie left me disappointed by the writing for the characters and the story-which was good enough to create an interesting premise filled with intriguing characters- but not good enough to create a satisfying whole and a recommendable experience.