Never have I seen 27 year old, Academy Award-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, act as boldly and unabashedly as she has in Francs Lawrence‘s spy thriller ‘Red Sparrow‘ based on Jason Mathew‘s novel, now in Kenyan cinemas.
Lawrence has perfected the art of cold and calculating in previous titles such as ‘X-Men: First Class (2011)’ where she took on the role of the supervillain, Mystique, as well as in subsequent X-Men titles, including Dark Phoenix set for later this year. The talented actress, whose films have grossed over $5.5billion worldwide in her budding career, then portrayed Katniss Everdeen in the dystopian world of ‘The Hunger Games‘ trilogy for over 5 years, a role which catapulted her to becoming one of the best paid American actresses.
In ‘Red Sparrow’, Jennifer is Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballerina in her prime, who behind the regal glamour of the spot light, retires to her modest home to take care of her sick mother. Despite the grandiose dancing ambitions she had from a young age, Dominika’s dreams end up being grounded, willingly so, for the sake of taking care of her sick mother, as the company she dances for takes care of their rent and medical support bills.
However, rivalry at the grand ballet results in her co-lead and a jealous ballerina conspiring to brutally end her career in the physically demanding showcase. Left without a job and robbed of her passion, Dominika’s uncle, Vanya Egorov (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) nudges, nay forces, her to join Russian Intelligence in exchange for taking care of her mother and paying her rent.
Left with no choice really, Dominika is taken, in a BMW 7 series I might add (I’m a fan), to an institution under the instruction of a Matron (Charlotte Rampling), and trained to become a Russian Sparrow, the country’s modern day answer to espionage. In spite of a few hiccups here and there, and an attempted rape, she excels through her training in the art of seduction and coercion, and is sooner than we think deployed on her first mission.
We come across a man who would be her savior at first, a ruthless henchman and assassin, and later an almost insurmountable obstacle to her way out of this web of lies and murder. Conscripted, she goes to live with another sparrow in Hungary as she lays out the intricate plot to find out what a covert American agent, Nate Nash (played by Joel Edgerton), knows about a Russian mole.
Seeking to unearth these truths leads Dominika towards a struggle to become an American double agent, and then escape the claws of her ruthless masters, all the while ensuring her mother’s safety. In the end, the mole is not quite who we expect and the repercussions of family involvement end up preserving a new rejuvenated generation of high-level spy infiltration.
‘Red Sparrow‘ is sharp and shocking, with minimal action and yet abundant characterization, often salvaged by the calculated and brilliant performance of Lawrence as a Russian spy who’s motivated by the preservation of her family rather than the morality of right and wrong, thanks to the experiences she has been handed by the world and those around her.
The film is a glimpse, however fictional, into modern-day espionage, and addresses the consistent undercurrent competition for global supremacy and the role of nationalism and patriotism. At a point, you ask yourself the extent, or rather depths to which, one would go to serve one’s country when they pledge themselves to its service.