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Red Sparrow  : From Hunger Games To Spy Games
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Friday, March 2, 2018
Thriller
Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts,Charlotte Rampling. Ballerina Dominika Egorova

The disturbing cruelty of dystopia works at the box-office mall. But the deadly reality of espionage can also hold one in thrall. 

 

The Hunger Games director-actor duo of Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence who are not related by the way, come together to explore spy games in a ruthless fatherland. Long after the Iron Curtain has fallen, the secret intelligence agencies of Russia still send ice cubes down the spine.

 

Ballet diva Dominika Egorova’s inscrutable face veils a violence that’s unafraid to surface when her choices are limited. UncleIvan recognises that streak in his niece even while she’s the caring daughter to an invalid mother or is the victim of a planned accident by a co-dancer on stage. “You’re just like me,” says Ivan the terrible as he recruits her into working for the state.

The training school is impersonally sadistic.Here’s where Sparrows or little Mata Haris are trained to use their bodies as weapons, seduce and ferret secrets out of their targets. They’re like call girls pimped by the state. A more dignified version of it being, ‘Your body belongs to the state’.

 

Scripted by Justin Haythe from a book written by former CIA operative Jason Matthews, Dominika is thrown into the deep from where she has to swim. Sinking and taking her mother down with her, is not an option.

 

There’s a mole in the higherechelons of the Russian government. Dominika’s assignment is to find him through his American handler, Nate Nash.The expected sexual chemistry between the two spies smoulders but there’s no room for mush in this harsh premise.

 

It’s the flip side of James Bond who beds, winks and wins. 

 

When Dominika is trained to do the same for the state, it’s more like whoring, building up a deep resentment in her.

 

Unlike the kickass action and theblatant female impersonation of James Bond by Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde,it’s cold hearted planning and revenge. Ultimately, who’s the pawn, who’s playing whom?Keep guessing.

 

Very strongly sexual without actually showing too much, the seductress and spy story has more dialogue, less physical action, the ticking brain deadlier than flying fists. 

 

Jennifer Lawrence reaches out and draws you in as Dominika, complete with the accent and the cunning to counter the sadistic.  

 

There are a lot of strong supporters in various roles like Joel Edgerton as American agent Nate Nash. But if Jennifer Lawrence is kept on her toes, it’s by Matthias Schoenaerts. As Uncle Ivan he has an underlying menace that’s sexual and sadistic.

 

For a spy thriller that’s unrelenting in its intrigue, Red Sparrow gets a 3* rating.

 

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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