Arts movie review

A confusion of sex and violence

“You sent me to a whore school…"

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Dominika Egorova stands among other Sparrow trainees.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Red Sparrow
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by Justin Haythe
Based on the novel by Jason Matthews
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Jeremy Irons
Rated R, Opening March 2

Despite the director’s warning to reviewers not to disclose of any twists and turns from the plot, I still find myself speechless to qualify the experience that was Red Sparrow. Now, don’t take that as speechless in a good way. I lean more towards speechless in a what-the-heck-just-happened-I’m-so-confused way.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a wildly famous prima ballerina from Russia. An accident causes her to lose her role of prima ballerina, and she subsequently plummets  into the world of Russian espionage with her induction into the Red Sparrow organization. As a Sparrow, Dominika is then trained in the art of seduction, and the rest of the movie rolls out from there.

The first thing I want to note about this movie is the performances from everyone involved, especially Jennifer Lawrence. Her role in Red Sparrow reminds audiences of her versatility as an actress, and one can only applaud her for all the hardships she must have gone through while acting as Dominika (because it certainly could not have been an easy role to play).

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can say the same for the writing involved in the movie. If you asked me to describe the movie in one word, I would say “cringe.” This movie is guaranteed to offend some number of people and disturb even more with its explicit use of sexual and violent content. As a teaser, I’ll just say that I never would have thought to see Jennifer Lawrence completely strip on screen for the reasons that she did. At some points, I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not I was watching a movie or the director’s fetish erotica on the big screen.

On the other hand, I can see what the director maybe intended with all the sexual and violent themes. Francis Lawrence attempts to create a grueling, unforgiving world: a trap that is life in Russia that you don’t truly realize until Dominika realizes it. There are also various parts in the movie where Dominika is forced into a difficult dead end, and when she finally gets the chance to break free, you can’t help but breath a sigh of relief.

But even then, you can achieve this mutual exchange of empathy by other means. For example, it would be much easier to sympathize with Dominika if viewers could glean more of her thoughts and feelings at any given moment rather than be kept in the dark and viewing her as a one-dimensional character. Throughout a majority of the movie, you feel like you’re following a string in the dark. You’re never quite entirely sure of Dominika’s intentions, and it makes it worse when she appears to do things that go against her training or plain common sense.

Despite all this, I can’t bring myself to say the movie is just absolutely terrible. Yes, there may be a completely unnecessary subplot with a dumb American. Yes, some parts of the movie might be excruciatingly awkward, but Red Sparrow is by no means the worst movie to have graced the surface of the Earth. It’s simply a different kind of movie with more than a few flaws in its making.