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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Red Sparrow

Most Riveting Film

Red Sparrow is one of the most riveting films I've ever seen in my life. From the moment the film begins (with one of the best and most clever opening scenes ever made) to the moment it ends, you're committed. Red Sparrow is not a wild ride, it's a long dance that makes you feel as though you're the one who's dancing. The film didn't do well with critics when it first came out two years ago (For a multitude of reasons I’ll go into later) but anyone who remembers the controversy, I expel you from that and encourage you to watch it or rewatch immediately.

In modern-day Moscow, Dominika Egorova (An out of this world Jennifer Lawrence) is a leading Bolshoi ballerina whose financial support for her ill mother (Joey Richardson) comes to a screeching halt after a career-ending injury. Egorova’s Uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) who works for the SVR offers to help her in exchange for her seducing a man the SVR sees as a threat. The hotel meeting begins promising but ends with the man dead and Egorova a witness to the murder.

In exchange for her life, she agrees to become a Sparrow - a spy who uses psychological manipulation through sex to gather intelligence. Once her training is complete, she is tasked with gaining the trust of Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA agent working with a mole in the Russian government - A mole whose identity Egorova is ordered to discover.

The film wisely spends a great deal focusing on Egorova’s time at the school and her relationship with the Matron (European screen legend Charlotte Rampling who gives her most heart-pounding performance to date). The school is based on a real one in Russia and it was so interesting and frightening to see what goes on inside. Interesting but in no way cool. Red Sparrow is a spy thriller you admire, not a spy thriller you envy. There's nothing exciting about what Egorova is made to do. What is exciting is what she chooses to do and how she fights back.

I’ll now discuss my thoughts on why the film didn't do as well as it should've by critics because not understanding films like Red Sparrow really is part of a bigger problem. Films like Red Sparrow are often criticized for portraying rape victims as strong after the rape because rape is not a tool to make women stronger, they're already strong, to begin with. That's absolutely true and I understand that controversy but what these critics just don't understand is it's BECAUSE she was always strong, to begin with, that she’s able to be strong afterward. Interesting characters are often victimized. Powerful people see them as threats so they forcibly take what they can get from them (more often than not, their bodies).

Trauma is not empowering but what is done with it can sometimes be empowering. Being damaged is not a privilege or a gift or a luxury. It's not something anyone should ever have to go through but I do think there's something to be said about the observation that damaged people see the world very differently. They just do and that is something very interesting that filmmakers have a right to explore, regardless of a character’s age, race, gender, or how uncomfortable their audience will feel.

The cinematography and score are very dark but in a psychological way that makes sense for the eyes, ears, and of course, the story. I've said it in previous reviews and I'll say it now: Films with long runtimes are great because they have enough time for them to be great. Enough time to remove even the littlest flaws so all you see is the masterpiece it is.

I haven't a single negative thing to say about Red Sparrow. The film is brutally violent at times but REAL violence is always brutal so I admire the filmmakers for staying clear of censorship. Red Sparrow is more than a spy thriller, it's a spy classic, meant to be observed and then remain classified in your memory.

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