Unnecessarily Convoluted Story Saved By A Good Final Act
The first of a planned trilogy, Russian spy thriller Red Sparrow suffers from an unnecessarily convoluted storyline, peppered with violence and nudity to bloat its run time to a little over 130 minutes. Although the narrative takes its time to get going and the wonky Russian accents are a bit of a distraction, Red Sparrow redeems itself with a well worked final act and a few very nice twists along the way.
The story begins in the heart of Russia with two parallel storylines. CIA Agent Nate (Joel Edgerton) is on the run evading mysterious assailants whilst focal character Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) sees her dreams of being a ballet star shattered when she badly hurts her ankle. It’s at this point Dominika is introduced by a family member to Sparrow school, an institution that teaches people to use their body and mind as weapons to extract information for the government on covert operations. Of course, the two parallel storylines do converge late on as Dominika is tasked to apprehend Nate whom we saw earlier in the film. After a slow start, Red Sparrow increases the pacing and subsequently interest as it dives into the heart of the plot.
With most of the action dominated by Russians-speaking-English dialect, it is somewhat disappointing that Red Sparrow doesn’t feature a single Russian actor or actress. It’s a particular problem as the questionable Russian accents put on by much of the American cast is awkward and contrived for vast periods of the run time. Still, Jennifer Lawrence does a pretty good job with the material she’s given and her subtle facial expressions mixed with the right balance of fragility and confidence certainly makes her an endearing protagonist for this thriller.
Of course, in true trilogy fashion Red Sparrow does leave unresolved plot points and characters in limbo when the credits roll. Thankfully, there’s enough here to make for a relatively satisfying spy thriller even if it is at the expense of some of the more questionable decisions in the film.
With the plot line engrossing and featuring some good bites of tension late on, the decision to litter the film with unnecessary nudity and sex scenes is certainly an odd one. Whilst it’s understandable that the Sparrows have to use their bodies as a weapon, the sex and nudity is overkill at times making for uncomfortable viewing, especially with such a bloated run time.
Although Red Sparrow does improve late on, the film certainly isn’t without its flaws. The poor Russian accents, convoluted storyline and unnecessary peppering of sex and nudity throughout the picture holds Red Sparrow back from perhaps being the great spy thriller it so easily could have been. Still, Jennifer Lawrence is enthralling in her role and accompanied by a few well worked twists, help elevate Red Sparrow even if it’s not quite as high as they may have hoped.