After ending the Hunger Games series – and pretty much the whole hype around YA dystopian films – with the whimper that was Mockingjay Part 2, director Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence have reteamed for Red Sparrow. The new spy thriller follows Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) who works her way up through Sparrow school, where much of her formal training revolves around seduction, and intertwines paths with CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). It’s based on a novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, which received approbation from the CIA themselves.
Red Sparrow isn’t an ordinary spy movie. This may be disorienting for audiences since it’s unlike the Bond, Bourne and other popular – typically action-heavy – pictures that we associate with the genre. It’s more akin to the thrillers made by Paul Verhoeven, except the satirical tone is traded for a real gravitas. With its shocking violence and squirm-inducing sexual content, Red Sparrow is an unflinching watch at times but doesn’t steer towards pure shock value.
Similar responses were had to the actress’s last picture, Mother!, which really divided her mass fanbase. Whilst this thriller is much more accessible to the mainstream than her previous movie, what the two films have in common besides the mature material is that they’re both effective at engaging the audience and making them think about the deeper subtext of their stories. Red Sparrow can be read as a feature about the psychology of seduction along with its influence, or as a look at the power dynamic between genders. There’s also the aspect of a Russian in a relationship with an American, but the movie is less successful at delving into the relations between the two countries when Nate is brought into focus and the CIA remains in the background.
Lawrence and Edgerton are exceptional. From The Great Gatsby to Exodus to Black Mass, Edgerton has never been the biggest actor in his films but he’s certainly stolen the show with a huge commitment to all his roles, including this one. Stepping into territory she’s never entered before with a Russian accent and weaponised sexuality, Lawrence as Dominika is a far cry from Katniss Everdeen and her dynamic performance proves yet again why she’s the best of her generation. Only a superstar like her could convince a studio to invest in such an audacious project, and we hope she continues to star in offbeat, captivating works.
Red Sparrow is released nationwide 1st March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Red Sparrow here: