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Red sparrow

★★★★

Director: Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2)


Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Jeremy Irons


REVIEWER: Lyall Carter

After a horrific accident leaves her unable to dance, former ballerina Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) 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.

J. Law. The darling of Hollywood. Irreverent, outspoken, and hilariously candid; she could do no wrong. Until quite recently. Now she seems to have fallen out of favour with the fickleness of public opinion. Criticised for her response to Joanna Lumley at the BAFTA’s, criticised for her response to a photo call in London, and criticised for starring in this film that was apparently causing droves of people to walk out mid screening due to its supposed anti-feminist agenda. This film and its star hasn’t had the most positive of publicity.

 

In spite of this, Red Sparrow is completely engrossing with a terrific, twisting plot leaving you second guessing and guessing again the character’s motives. Granted, there are some reveals that you can see coming, but there are some genuinely surprising twists that leaves you engrossed until the final frame.

 

Jennifer Lawrence is the true definition of ‘movie star’, every moment she is on screen you are transfixed but kept at bay as her character appears to constantly shift allegiances until you finally discover her motivations as the film draws to a close. Joel Edgerton delivers a solid performance that is more than one dimensional in what could have been only the ‘dashing American spy’ character. Charlotte Rampling is deliciously sinister as the Sparrow school matron, Matthias Schoenaerts has the creep in the suit vibe down to a fine art, and Jeremy Irons is, as always, superb. 

 

The movie is violent. There are disturbing scenes of rape, torture, and murder. After witnessing a horrific crime Egorova’s uncle, who works in Russian intelligence, gives her two options: be shot or use her body to seduce enemies of the state. This was the most disturbing part of the film: a powerful man, a relative, using his power to sexually exploit his niece. If it had been left there it would have been awful. All I can say, without giving away spoilers, is that the payoff is worth it as Egorova fights back against the system.

A spy tale with thrilling twists and turns with Jennifer Lawrence proving once again why she is one of the actresses of her generation.

 

★★★★

SPECIAL FEATURES BLU-RAY

A NEW COLD WAR: ORIGINATION & ADAPTION

Director Francis Lawrence discusses his discovery of the novel before it had even been published and his desire to make this original piece. James Matthews, who wrote the novel on which the movie is based, speaks of his 33 year experience in the CIA and how he came to create the story and assist with the adaption. 

AGENTS PROVOCATEURS: THE ENSEMBLE CAST

Cast and crew discuss the various characters from Dominika who can be prone to violence and discovers that she is very good at it, to Nate who is an all American hero, to Jeremy Irons who Lawrence said was 'very intimidating at first but amazing to work with.' Francis Lawrence discusses how he and Jennifer worked through the intricacies of her character and were careful to make the more harrowing scenes less exploitative and more organic.   

TRADECRAFT: VISUAL AUTHENTICITY

The director, art director, and costume designer discuss how the various locations from the opulent to the most basic helped to create a unique visual experience needed for Red Sparrow. Costuming was used to visually represent and develop characters, as well as subtle hints like the red dress Dominika wears in the ballet production and in her meeting with her first target that hint towards her becoming a red sparrow. 

HEART OF THE TEMPEST: ON LOCATION

The cast and crew discuss how they settled on Budapest and not Moscow as one of the principle locations of the film. From the Hungarian State Opera House doubling as the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to the plain, drab streets which appear to be still stuck behind the Iron Curtain, Red Sparrow used all of the tricks up its sleeves to convince the audience that they were in Russia. 

WELCOME TO SPARROW SCHOOL: BALLET AND STUNTS

Kurt Froman, the Associate Choreographer, talks about Jennifer Lawrences' commitment to train 6 days a week for 3 hours to learn how to move and hold herself like a ballerina. Joel Edgerton talks the audience through the chase scene at the beginning of the film and also his torture scene.

A PUZZLE OF NEED: POST PRODUCTION

We see the meticulous way in which the editor cuts and places Red Sparrow together and how the score was written with a particular emphasis on the opening ten minute ballet scene which is intercut with a chase scene.  

DELETED SCENES

There are ten deleted scenes from throughout the film with commentary from director Francis Lawrence.

SPECIAL FEATURES: 

If you are a fan of Red Sparrow or just really love the film process the special features are super in depth and more than justify purchasing Red Sparrow on Blu-ray.

★★★★★

Red Sparrow is available on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K, and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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