Red Sparrow Review: A Muddled Spy Drama

Famed Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence returns to the screen with her Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence in one of the harder to follow dramas of recent past.

Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a ballerina dancer who suffers a terrible injury that puts her and her mother’s fate in jeopardy. As a last resort, Dominika is enlisted in Sparrow school, a Russian intelligence organization that trains individuals to use their bodies as weapons against enemies of the state. After completing her grueling training process, Dominika is assigned to extract information from a CIA agent named Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). But when he convinces Dominika that he’s the only true person she can trust, she begins to question her allegiances to Russia.

Red Sparrow contains an abundance of sexually explicit content that will certainly shock viewers, as I believe gratuity was the intention. I also believe it was well meaning, serving the general themes of sexual servitude and what it means to give yourself away. I thought this was a vastly interesting concept to dive into, especially given the strong performance of Jennifer Lawrence and the unique storyline.

And for the first hour or so, they do a lot with these ideas. The pacing is fast and keeps the audience on its toes, and we learn much about our protagonist and the horrifying things she’s put through by Russian Intelligence.

But slowly and surely the plot of Red Sparrow starts to meander about, and more or less turns into your run-of-the-mill spy movie. Complete with too many characters overstuffed into the story, tediously predictable scenes, and generally just too many things going on to stay focused.

This detrimentally harms the messages and themes of the film, which are stretched so thin by the elongated plot that it all becomes quite skewed and confusing. When the film finally ends you can’t remember what it was all about in the first place. The motives of our protagonist and the moral messages/takeaways are so ever-changing that I can’t confidently state what Red Sparrow was trying to convey. Is it a film on sexual servitude, current political corruption and ideals, or just a dramatic spy movie overindulging in offensive gratuity? Maybe it’s none of those things, or maybe it’s not, I think the audience deserves to know.

The Verdict: C+

-Zachary Flint

Passengers Review

All I’ve been hearing from everyone about Passengers is just how bad it is. People said it was boring, overly long, and very flawed.

So in hearing all this negative criticism, I watched Passengers with somewhat low expectations. However I came out actually enjoying it quite a bit. Call me a sucker for science fiction films, but I really enjoyed my experience watching this!

Lets look at the plot. The film centers around Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) aboard the starship Avalon on its way to a colonized planet called Homestead II. The trip takes 120 years, and it seems as though Jim has been woken up 90 years early. Also to his dismay, he is the only one of 5,000 people to wake up early. Jim must now adjust to life on this huge ship by himself as well as figure out why he woke up. Eventually a girl named Aurora Lane (played by Jennifer Lawrence ) is woken up to and has to adjust to life isolated with Jim. They begin bonding and soon start forming a close relationship.

First I will address the two major criticisms of the film, which are pretty major flaws. The first would be just how boring it is. People say that there just isn’t enough that goes on in the film to be entertaining. That the stakes are very low and not a lot happens to invest the audience.

I would slightly agree with this notion, accept for just how much I love the imagery. A lot of the science fiction scenery in the film has already been done to death, but not all. There are some scenes in Passengers where I got that imaginative sci-fi experience that you get in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where you just feel the vastness of creativity and the endless possibilities in the universe. Anything from the technology on board the ship with Chris Pratt or even the A.I. bartender he bonds with felt very creative. Maybe I’m giving the film too much credit, but I thought the technology in Passengers was good.

There are also some great scenes where Chris Pratt is adjusting to living on the ship by himself. Some are funny scenes of him being a goofball. Others are very emotional because of how lonely he is living with no other human interaction.

This takes us to the second big problem with the film, Jennifer Lawrence. Not particularly her acting, I thought she did just fine in this role. The problem is more her relevance to the plot and Chris Pratt’s character. I don’t want to give too much away, but lets just say it’s a little ‘Stockholm Syndrome’-ish. Jim comes off as a little creepy and the film tries to reconcile that, except it doesn’t work well. The audience is still left feeling a little unease and weirded out by his actions and behaviors.

The climax to Passengers  is actually somewhat anticlimatic. Again without giving too much away, I’ll say that I initially liked how the climax was playing out. However the film resorted to making some very cliched choices and just slowly fizzes out to the end. Leaving the audience kind of underwhelmed.

Despite these flaws I thought there was some pretty neat stuff in Passengers. The acting from our leads was not bad, and a lot of weight was resting on their shoulders (since their are only four actors in the entire film). The design of the ship and the science fiction elements are interesting. I liked some of the morally ambiguous scenes that we get multiple times throughout the film. I also really liked the idea of ‘two people stranded on an island’ kind of thing. An interesting idea that was somewhat developed in the film.

Overall I thought that Passengers was all around an okay film. It wasn’t great by any means, but it wasn’t deserving of all the hate it got by critics. I think that the film had enough going for it through its imagery and actors to give it a pass, however all criticisms of the film are very warranted. As for recommendations, I think that science fiction fans should give it a watch and form their own opinions on it.