RED SPARROW, the latest film from director Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games series), is much more than just an action flick and more about how women use what they have to survive against the male patriarchy. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence (Mother!), Joel Edgerton (It Comes at Night), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), and Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers).
The film centers around Dominika Egorova (Lawrence), a prima ballerina who gets recruited by her Uncle (Schoenaerts) to join a top-secret Russian Intelligence Service training academy called Sparrow School where she will be forced to use her body as a weapon. When she is tasked in targeting an American C.I.A. agent (Edgerton), she must use all her knowledge and sexuality to finish the mission before she finds herself in the deadly crossfires of Russian and American intelligence.
I’ll be honest, going into this film I didn’t know too much about it. I just assumed it would be another version of Atomic Blonde which I was fine with since I really enjoyed that movie. However, RED SPARROW definitely sets itself apart from other female-centric action thrillers in the sense that it shows just how deadly women’s sexuality and charisma can be towards men, especially those men in power.
It would be easy for me to go into a long drawn out rant on how empowering I found this movie to be, and that is definitely a subject that I will be touching upon, but what is really fascinating about RED SPARROW is that it’s actually based off of a book of the same name by writer Jason Matthews. Though the character of Dominika Egorova isn’t something Matthews encountered in real life, he is an ex-CIA agent who served 33 years within the agency and was involved in "clandestine collections of national security intelligence." He also confirmed that the Sparrow Schools, otherwise known as ‘honeypots’ were an actual part of Soviet Intelligence Training, something I was not familiar with until seeing this film.
I’m sure you asking, what is Sparrow Schooling? As Matthew’s puts it, “In the Soviet Union, they had a school that taught young women the art of entrapment, the art of seduction, for blackmailing intelligence targets. They had a Sparrow School in the City of Kazan, on the banks of the Volga River, where young women were taught how to be courtesans. They were called ‘Sparrows’”. Now imagine these young individuals, men and women, using their bodies as a way to entice, to lure, to stimulate, to get what they want. Is that wrong? It depends on how you are using it. What if it was your only chance for survival…?
In terms of the film itself, I enjoyed it immensely. I loved the action scenes, I loved Jennifer Lawrence’s character and the chemistry that she had with Joel Edgerton and I loved the raw and graphic gore that accompanied certain scenarios. My only gripe with the film was that some of the Russian accents were a tad bit forced and didn’t seem authentic which took me out of the film a bit. Also, as much as I loved Lawrence and Edgerton, I have to give some mad props to the Matron of the Sparrow School, played by Charlotte Rampling. I would have LOVED to have known her backstory.
My biggest takeaway from this film, however, is women empowerment. I know I know, a lot of you men (and probably some of you women) are tired of hearing about female empowerment, the #MeToo movement, and beyond, but you know what, I don’t give a shit. Lawrence handles her situation like a muthafuckin boss, using what she is given and the tools she has acquired to get what she needs. Watching her beat the ever loving shit out of a man who attempted to rape her was one of the highlights of this movie and honestly, I could watch that scene on replay and not get bored. Dominika is damaged, yes, she’s been through the ringer, and she’s tired of man’s quest for body, power and their feeling of entitlement. I’m here for Dominika and her ass kicking, I’m here for her stabbing a guy in the throat and beating a man unconscious with a shower faucet. You gotta do what you gotta do to survive, and she does it.
Does RED SPARROW have flaws, absolutely, it’s far from perfect, but that’s okay. The movie is entertaining and for me, it made me happy to see a badass female once again portrayed on the big screen. Sure, it takes place in Russia and everything looks drab and everyone is constantly chain smoking but there’s enough action and and suspense (as well as a few twists and turns) that will keep audiences guessing till the very last frame. Oh, and horror fans, you will love the gore, trust me.
RED SPARROW arrives in theaters Friday, March 2nd from 20th Century Fox