By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

No matter what color this bird chooses to be from day to day, this spy thriller, “Red Sparrow,” directed by Francis Lawrence (“Hunger Games”), keeps the viewers attention as Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) has a life – altering injury one evening. She is not expecting the abrupt career change and in efforts to “help” her and her mother Nina (Joely Richardson), Uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts, “The Danish Girl”) offers her an option with the government that is not a dream job. She begrudgingly gives in – after all, she’s lost the health insurance and apartment she had with her former job. This espionage thriller is set in Russia, but almost sounds as if it describes people in the United States who may be a step away from homelessness and no funds in order to consult with a doctor. When desperation hits a family, how far will someone go to keep basic needs?  

The 2013 novel by former C.I.A. operative Jason Matthews has been adapted by screenwriter Justin Haythe (“Snitch,” “Revolutionary Road”). Although I have not yet read the novel, this story is very engaging as this highly successful young woman comes face to face with an enormous challenge. She is a beauty and can easily be put in a box of “just a pretty face” (by some people) and no brains. She has lived in a modest abode, yet has been successful in the arts and on the stage. So when she accepts the government job, she uses her stage skills for a new role with the intelligence agency. Sleezy Uncle Ivan (the kind you want to keep away from your kids) thinks she is very capable, but in reality, he doesn’t have a clue about much talent and drive she has in order to carry out the assigned missions, no matter how gruesome.

Lawrence works well with a credible Russian accent, but that can’t be said about the rest of the cast.  Jeremy Irons is excellent in his performance as a Russian general, but from the first scene he appears in, the use of a Russian accent does not seem to be required of him for the role. Schoenaerts has an accent and it is not obvious (to me) if it is Russian or not, but it works well in this film. I have viewed this Belgium actor’s film work since “Bullhead” at the 2011 Fantastic Fest that went on to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign film and I have enjoyed the performances of each character.

This is not an easy film to watch when Dominika enters the training school from hell she is sent to and the headmistress, Matron (Charlotte Rampling), informs the “students” their body is not their own anymore since it belongs to the “state.” As resentful as Dominka may be, she keeps control, turns the tables and takes full charge when put on “stage” in a very dramatic scene.

Her ability to read people serves her well on the missions, from a bank clerk to the American C.I.A. operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). Yes, of course the spies are attracted to each other, but I like that this script does not create the chemistry so deep between them that it switches into a “love story” for the ages. Business is business in this film. Who is the mole? For that, you have to view “Red Sparrow.”

The film also includes excellent performances from cast members Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, Douglas Hodge and Thekla Reuten among others.

The 139 minute film has an R MPAA rating and will be in theaters March 2nd, 2018

Source: 20th Century Fox

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