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Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow: Was the Cringeworthy Violence Worth It?

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  • Jennifer LawrenceJoel Edgerton...
  • Mystery & SuspenseThriller
  • Francis Lawrence
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Red Sparrow: Was the Cringeworthy Violence Worth It?

This is not a female survival story; this is a violent, and sometimes disturbing, account of a woman being exploited to the maximum. 

Red Sparrow tells the story of Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a Russian ballerina who loses her career after a major injury. Egorova is then recruited by the head of the Russian Secret Intelligence Agency (Matthias Schoenaerts), who also happens to be her uncle. She is blackmailed into joining a special program for young and beautiful officers, who are trained to seduce targets, with the aim of extracting information. Loyalties are in question when Dominika is assigned to seduce Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a handsome CIA agent.

Although one can muster all this information from the trailer alone, we were in no way prepared for what was to come our way. For starters, the film contains several graphically violent, and outrageously disturbing, scenes that might have the faint-hearted exiting the theater. From multiple creatively sadistic torture sequences, to unsettling scenes where Dominkia is ordered to take off her clothes in public, to scenes where Dominika is stripped naked, and raped while her uncle watches, Red Sparrow left us gasping for air. 

While the film’s trailer gave away most of the plot, the film’s execution of the plot is where the debate lies. Some may argue that the film is a story of a woman merely attempting to survive, whilst others may argue that the film offers a violent exposure of the lengths some people are willing to go for patriotic causes. The film’s focus on the horrific torture methods, and extreme forms of training, suggests that it focuses on the latter. The film, however, drags on for two and a half hours, and redundantly boasts one torture sequence after another. 

As per her usual, Lawrence was exceptional; she managed to portray more than enough emotions and pain in the violent scenes, leaving audiences with chills down their spines. Even though her Russian accent seemed to fade in and out, Lawrence was able to have the audience understand her character, and sympathize with it.

Matthias Schoenaerts, playing Dominka’s uncle, was quite despicable. From the way he gazed at his niece with lust while she was being raped, to his cold and calm reactions to his niece’s torture, and finally, to his exploitatively devilish attitude towards his niece, Schoenaerts made the audience despise him. Indeed, we cringed every time he touched Lawrence, and we relished at his character’s tragic end. If all these are not signs of an amazing performance, then we do not know what is. 

As per Joel Edgerton’s performance, well, it was mediocre with an underdeveloped character presentation. We were very confused about the actual nature of a CIA agent who is supposedly tough, yet extremely emotional. Another problem with Edgerton is the fact that his on-screen chemistry with Lawrence is practically nonexistent; this partially resulted from the brevity and abruptness of the scenes that brought both performers together, and it also resulted from Edgerton being a miscast for the role. 

We also have to say that the film’s brilliant shot framing, costume design,  location choices, and general mise en scène were extremely well crafted, to the extent where they compensated for the film’s aforementioned plot drags. 

If you are into dark and violent thrillers – and you don’t mind the dragging plot, the lack of chemistry between co-stars, and redundant torture sequences –  then definitely watch Red Sparrow. 

Like This? Try

Salt (2010), Atomic Blonde (2017), Proud Mary (2018), Divergent (2014), Colombiana (2011) 

360 Tip

To prepare for the role, Jennifer Lawrence did ballet and practiced a Russian accent for four months. 

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