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Spy Antics

Saturday, March 03, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons and others
Rating: * * 1/2

If it weren’t for Jennifer Lawrence’s dazzling beauty and stardom, the violent and jingoistic 'Red Sparrow' would not be worth a watch. She stands tall and glamorous in the cloak-and-dagger antics of Francis Lawrence’s spy-versus-spy movie.

Based on the novel of the same name by former CIA man Jason Matthews, it tells the story of ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), whose career is destroyed by a horrific onstage accident. Her sleazy Uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) sends her to Sparrow School, where a stony matron (Charlotte Rampling) trains women ('Your body belongs to the state') and some men in the honey trap game. This operation is run by the Russian intelligence service – the SVR – to send spies into the enemy camp to gather crucial information.

Dominika gets assigned to Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA operative, who flees Russia to Budapest after he is nearly caught with his mole selling him Russian secrets. Dominika has to entrap Nate and find out the identity of the spy. There are traitors on both sides, a lot of scheming, plotting, deception and other typical spy movie hijinks. For world that has moved to sophisticated online hacking and data capture, the low tech used in this film is surprising.

Obviously, decades after the original Cold War ground to a halt, Hollywood is returning to Russian bad guys to fuel their paranoia, but with better espionage being made – heck, even James Bond films have more juice – 'Red Sparrow' just looks lurid and obnoxious towards women.

With actors like Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons and Ciaran Hinds making up the cast, at least the performances are fine, even if the political world view is superficial, the violence brutal. Jennifer Lawrence gets to wear lovely costumes and stride about elegantly as she tries to stay a step ahead of all the intrigue simmering all around; however, a talent like hers deserves better roles.

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