“Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.” —IMDB
Red Sparrow is a harrowing sky-thriller about one girl who is determined to right the wrongs of her country by any means necessary. Jennifer Lawrence pays Dominika, a former prima ballerina, gravely injured by a jealous ballerina eager to take her place on the stage. With no other choices left to support her ailing mother, Dominika’s uncle gives her a chance to help him with a task that unfortunately leaves her trapped in the service of her country. She becomes a Sparrow, one of a group of elite spies who must use their bodies in service of the country.
As a rated-R film, the expectation is that the film would have violence and sexual exploitation. This film has been criticized for the overuse of sexuality, but that is one of the founding corners of the film. The initial scene of Dominika (Lawrence) getting raped is to showcase that her body does not belong to her, it belongs to the state. It is represented by a high class and powerful man taking advantage of her, and by her uncle who put her in this position, knowing how it would end up. It is a powerful scene that is not meant to be comfortable to watch. It is supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable. Ignoring the things that make people uncomfortable doesn’t make them go away, it means ignoring the problem, and rape culture is still a huge problem.
This trap her uncle has set for her forces her to be sent to, as Dominika refers to it, “whore-school,” again reinforcing the idea that her body does not belong to her, it belongs to her country and everyone who would take advantage of that. Except its here that Dominika finds her power and regains possession of what the state has taken from her. She asserts the idea that her body is hers to give to whom she chooses in another powerful scene where a fellow student, angry that she is better than him, tries to force himself on her. However, she does not let him. It is a simple scene of her beating the crap out of him with a shower knob that shows the viewer that she is taking back the power, that her body is hers and hers alone.
In the height of the #metoo movement, it is easy to see why this film and the scenes above make viewing the movie uncomfortable, why do they need to showcase rape? Because ignoring the problem does not solve it, and when you look at the scenes, how they are structured and written, it is supposed to mean something in the grand scheme of the film. Moreover, it does. It is not there for no reason; the scenes are supposed to mirror one another on purpose for a purpose.
Other than that, it is a very slow movie, as many spy thrillers are. Audiences can empathize with Dominika, and they want to root for her. She is a smart girl thrust into a situation she never wanted to be a part of, and now, Dominika has to use these skills she has learned to her advantage, to right the wrongs of her country. It is slow moving and long, which can turn off many people. To be honest, I was checking the time an hour and a half into the movie to see how much longer. It is hard to say what could have been cut because all the scenes were essential to the plot and overall development of the film, but overall, it was a good film. (★★★☆ | B)
Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Google+ | LinkedIn to stay tuned for future reviews.
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by Justin Haythe
Based on Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Distributed by 20th Century Fox