Red Sparrow is a 2018 American spy thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeremy Irons. It tells the story of a Russian intelligence officer who is sent to make contact with a CIA agent in the hope of discovering the identity of a mole.
Set in modern times, Dominika Egorova is a famed Russian ballerina who supports her ill mother. Following a career-ending injury, she finds out that the injury was perhaps forced by her male partner, who is sleeping with her understudy and in a fit of rage she beats them both badly. Faced with the possibility of losing their apartment, Dominika is approached by her uncle, Ivan, who works in Russian intelligence. She is tasked with seducing Dimitry Ustinov, a Russian gangster, in exchange for her mother’s continued medical care. As Ustinov rapes her, he is killed by Matorin, a Russian operative authorized by Ivan. Ivan offers Dominika a choice to begin working for Russian intelligence, or be executed so there are no witnesses. She is instead sent to train to become a Russian operative, known as a ‘Sparrow’, capable of seducing her targets.
Dominika excels in her training, despite some friction with her trainers, and an attempted rape by a male operative in training who she beats up, she is assigned to Budapest. Meanwhile Nate Nash, a CIA operative working in Moscow. While meeting with an asset in Gorky Park, they are confronted by the police. Nash creates a diversion to ensure his asset, a mole in Russian ranks code-named Marble, escapes detection. Nash is reassigned back to the U.S. but insists that he is the only individual whom Marble will work with. Since he cannot return to Russia, he is assigned to Budapest, where he will regain contact with Marble. Russian SVR has been tracking Nash, and hopes to find out the identity of Marble. Dominika’s assignment is to gain the trust of Nash, and reveal his contact.
Dominika stays with another operative named Marta in Budapest and reports to her lecherous boss Maxim Volontov. Dominika makes contact with Nash and he realizes that she is a Russian spy to which she readily admits and says that her intention is to find out Marble’s identity. However they hit it off. Marta’s was working with Stephanie Boucher, chief of staff for a U.S. Senator to gather information but that goes wrong and Stephanie is killed in an accident when she panics upon seeing US agents. Matorin kills Marta as a warning. Russian agents observing Boucher realize that the mission had been compromised. Dominika and Volontov are required to immediately return to Moscow. She is tortured and interrogated for days but does not break even as her boss Volontov was apparently executed. She convinces Ivan that she is now credible to the Americans, as she has been tortured by her own people and did not reveal information. Dominika returns to Budapest, and informs Nash that she wishes to defect with her mother to America.
She and Nash spend the night in bed but when she wakes up she finds him being tortured by Matorin. She pretends to join the torture (including a scene in which Nash’s skin is being peeled) but then turns on the Russian assassin and is able to kill him with Nash’s help. She wakes up in a hospital where she is met by
General Vladimir Korchnoi reveals that he is Marble. He explains that he was initially patriotic, but grew to feel that Russia was corrupt. He fears he will be caught soon, and instead of dying in vain, instructs Dominika to reveal his identity to Ivan. She could then replace him as a mole and further their work by passing information to the CIA. But when Dominika contacts her superiors to reveal the identity of the mole, she frames her uncle Ivan rather than betray Korchnoi. Ivan is killed by the Russian side during a spy swap, and Dominika is congratulated for her work by her Russian superiors. Back home in Russia, Dominika lives with her mother, and receives a phone call from an unknown person who plays Grieg’s piano concerto that she had listened to during her affair with Nash.
I usually love spy films but the pace of this film kinda lets it down. It feels kinda drab in places and not at all like the exciting and entertaining spy films I have seen in the past. Laurence seems forced at times and I wasn’t buying her half-baked attempt at a Russian accent. The cliche of having the main female character being ogled, desired, sexualized and pawned at by the majority of the men in the main cast. I give it a 7 outta 10!