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

The Post Review

What I assume will be my last belated review from 2017, The Post was one of the more politically motivated (and dividing) films of the year.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, The Post focuses on American newspaper publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), who recently inherited ownership of the Washington Post. Graham works feverishly with editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) in an attempt to play catch-up with The New York Times, who just exposed a massive government secret spanning decades.  This secret, known today as the Pentagon Papers, detailed the United States’ military interests in Vietnam, even years before military action took place. This included major lies from four U.S. presidents, government deception of the public, and even the acknowledgement that we might not win the war if the U.S. decided to fight.

So, when the Nixon administration tried to silence the news media by making the papers illegal to publish, The Washington Post throws it all on the line for their right to bring this information to the public eye.

When it comes to The Posts storytelling capabilities, they happened to be both powerful and conventional. Spielberg has this natural style of filmmaking that’s always so engaging, with the ability to suck viewers into the most mundane of scenes. That ability translates over nicely in The Post, which stays interesting, topical, and compelled. Scenes are shot with some variety, and the actors were motivated to give their all.

That being said, The Post doesn’t really throw anything new into the mix. We’ve seen biographical dramas on journalism before, and The Post didn’t really stand out as being revolutionary (as many critics would have you believe). How The Post stands the test of time has of course yet to be seen. It’s messages and themes about the government attempting to censor and control the media are undeniably topical, for the moment. But its methods are so similar to films like Spotlight that I’m skeptical how well it will age. A lot of The Post’s critical praise has come from its relevancy to the current U.S. administration, but without that context I’m afraid that it won’t stand as strong.

At the very least, The Post is a well-directed and intriguing drama, with passionate performances from Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Beyond this, I’m not sure if The Post is  award-winning material.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint