At The Movies: Red Sparrow

If you’re tired of waiting for Marvel Studios to make that “Black Widow” movie you’ve been wanting, you might want to give “Red Sparrow” a try.

Now granted, it’s far more violent, dark, and you’re going to see more of Jennifer Lawrence’s naked body than you’re likely to see of Scarlett Johansson’s in a Marvel movie — but it’s the closest we’re going to come to a Russian-ballerina-becomes-spy movie for a while.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorova, prima ballerina with the Bolshoi. She lives with her invalid mother (Joely Richardson) and life is fine until an accident ends Dominika’s dancing career.

Dominika’s uncle, Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), is a high-ranking official in Russian intelligence. He tells his niece that the only way for her and her mother to avoid poverty is if she attends and survives Sparrow School — a place where select young Russians are taught all the dirty tricks of espionage.


School is intense, brutal, and humiliating, but Dominika makes it through. Her first assignment is to befriend CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) and discover the identity of the Russian mole that is working with him.

Based on the novel by Jason Matthews, “Red Sparrow” is a decent spy thriller that is more about the psychological and personal toll of the spy game and not focused on the high action and gadgets one expects from a James Bond movie. It’s also significantly more harsh and graphic than your usual Bond thriller.

Like all spy movies it relies on multiple twists and turns and I’m not entirely sure how it all shakes out in the end. The movie is long (2 hours, 20 minutes) but entertaining enough that it didn’t matter.

A large part of what keeps your attention all that time is , of course, Jennifer Lawrence. The actress has such a compelling on-screen presence that you get drawn into her story even if it doesn’t really bring anything new to the spy film genre.

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