Red Sparrow: Film Review
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Joely Richardson
Director: Francis Lawrence
Based on the first of Jason Matthews' trilogy of books, Red Sparrow unfortunately struggles to make a real case for further escapades to be filmed.
Lawrence stars as ballet star Dominika Egrova, whose career is cut short by a tragic accident - though it seems suspicious, the first of Red Sparrow's weaker attempts to set up ongoing mystery and subterfuge.
When her shady uncle (Schoenaerts, surely no coincidence that he looks like Putin with his pushed down hair and pallid complex) approaches her offering a chance of money, she's thrust into the world of espionage, via way of training in Sparrow school.
Headed by Rampling's icy matron, Sparrow school dehumanises its subjects and teaches them to use themselves as weapons in the fight for the motherland and against the invaders.
Soon, Dominika is assigned her first task - to infiltrate Joel Edgerton's CIA Agent Nate Nash's world as part of an international sting.
Extraordinarily stretched out into an over-long 135 minutes, Red Sparrow struggles to engage from the get go.
It's never the case though, and with men who are varying degrees of creeps pulling the strings and sexually manipulating her, it's an odd feeling to sit through. It helps little that Lawrence delivers a cool, fierce and detached turn, with her aloofness proving as hard to thaw as the Russian snow which peppers some of the shots.
There's a steely feel to Lawrence's performance throughout, and in some ways, it's about a woman learning about control and growing, but it doesn't stop it feel less uncomfortable as time goes on. And while the end twists hint at more, the barbed treatment throughout makes it a difficult watch.
Edgerton has a grounded humanity to his role, but he and Lawrence fail to fire up the screen and consequently, parts of Red Sparrow feel robbed of the push and pull and tension that a good, gritty complex spy thriller should impart.
There are moments of good characters which shine through - Rampling's stoic turn in particular stands out, and there's a feeling of nuance and backstory which could easily lead to more.
Ultimately, the anti-climactic end of the Red Sparrow throws a shed-load of plot at frustrated and numbed viewers. While it doesn't pander to basil exposition to engage its audience, and tries for complex, what evolves is more muddled and muddied than anything.