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Red Sparrow

Although the Cold War is long gone, films like ‘Red Sparrow’ have kept the espionage flame alive. Spies never truly go away with the art of deception still commonplace. Writers like John LeCarre and Len Deighton have never run out of material for their books. The ongoing success of the James Bond spy series also attests to the popularity of the genre with the franchise continually raking in a fortune. Based on the novel by Jason Matthews, ‘Red Sparrow’ offers its own unique spin as it charts a course in a shadowy world.

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is a Russian spy who has been trained in Sparrow School. A Russian intelligence service overseen by headmistress Matron (Charlotte Rampling), the school gives Dominika her first assignment. Tasked with seducing CIA agent Nate (Joel Edgerton), who poses a huge threat to Russian secrets, Dominika uses any means to ensnare her prey. Using her body and brains as a weapon, she is surprised when she falls for Nate. Events rapidly deteriorate as allegiances crumble and retribution surfaces.

‘Red Sparrow’ has caused controversy in its attitude towards sex and violence. Both have long been hot-button topics which ‘Red Sparrow’ pushes to the max. Lawrence’s matter-of-fact delivery as Dominika conjures a broken person in search of her identity. Manipulated by others, she aims to become the manipulator in a twist-driven plot worthy of any thriller. Lawrence delivers a brave performance that may be confronting but reveals her character’s uninhibited ambitions.

Francis Lawrence’s edgy direction ensures unpredictability at every turn. Russia’s grey mean streets have never looked more stark with the cinematography revealing many dark corners. ‘Red Sparrow’ discards any fantastical spy elements seen elsewhere and opts for brutal realism. The action and savage brutality is painted in vivid strokes that almost covers up the often unnecessarily long run-time. The score and performances successfully evoke the urgent danger ‘Red Sparrow’ needs.

‘Red Sparrow’ may often be difficult viewing, but it dares to be different in an era of cinematic conformity. It’s another solid outing from Jennifer Lawrence who is slowly carving out an interesting career. Spies haven’t behaved this badly for a while and, as ‘Red Sparrow’ proves, it stills pays to question their apparent trustworthiness.

Rating out of 10: 7

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