Plot: What’s it about?
After severely injuring her leg, prima ballerina, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), is recruited by her uncle to become a secret Russian spy. She’s sent to school to become a sparrow. While this isn’t exactly the first thing she wants to do, she does since she cares for her mother and needs money. We follow a parallel story involving CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). Eventually their paths will cross. We see a bit of Dominika going through training which is very severe to say the least. Actually, some of the early scenes in the film prove the most interesting and most effective.
I’ll admit that the trailers for Red Sparrow had me intrigued, but now, after two viewings, I still find the film disappointing. There’s just too much going on here that we lose our interest. The various story threads and characters are spread so thin that not only do things become confusing, but I just stopped caring after a while. The acting is good overall, though Lawrence struggles a bit with her spotty accent. I think with some reworking they might’ve had something more interesting here. I would’ve liked to maybe see our lead character choose this life on her own or maybe not get her backstory to add a bit of mystique to her. I understand the need to give her reason to join the sparrow school, but I’m thinking of something like the film Salt where things took a different route.
While the film earns its R rating, there’s still a surprisingly amount of tameness to the film. We get a few nude scenes, one where Dominika strips in front of her fellow students, but there’s a big shortage of tension and intense action sequences. I haven’t even touched on the Jeremy Irons or Mary-Louise Parker characters, among others. Indeed there’s just too much here. It’s unusual for a film this stuffed to at the same time feel so empty, but it does. Without an investment in the story, it just plods along very slowly before the 2-hour plus running time is finally up. This is one you can safely skip.
Video: How’s it look?
The 4K transfer looked quite nice to these eyes. Close-up shots, background details, bold colors. You name it, this has it, and it excels wonderfully. I saw the film once in theaters then again for this review, and it looked about as good as I recall in looking in theaters. There’s a much stronger clarity when viewing it where even the simplest details come through with much more detail. The film might be a stinker, but the transfer excels on all counts.
Audio: How’s it sound?
If you sprung for this 4K version, you’ll be treated to a Dolby Atmos track that wasn’t present on the Blu-ray. Range and sonics are improved a bit over the DTS HD Master Audio mix. Vocals are pure, rich and crisp and there’s more of a depth to the track than I’d imagined. The track stayed reasonable active and kept us with it. It’s hard, these days, to really have a “bad” sounding track. A big budget film from a major studio like this will almost always excel in the technical areas and this is no exception.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As is the case with most Fox 4K discs, all of the supplements are located on the Blu-ray – also included in this set.
- A New Cold War: Origination and Adaptation – This is more along the lines of a “standard EPK” with some behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and a broad overview of the film.
- Agents Provocateurs: The Ensemble Cast – A bit like the above, but we get more of a diverse look at the rather notable cast.
- Tradecraft: Visual Authenticity – This was one of the more interesting ones, for me, as we get a look at some of the various locales that they used to film the movie as well as some of the emphasis on production design.
- Heart of the Tempest: On Location – Tying in with the above feature, this shows the extreme that Lawrence and his crew went through to get things consistent and right, regardless of the shooting location.
- Welcome to Sparrow School: Ballet and Stunts – There’s a feature on the I, Tonya disc that reminded me of this. We see Jennifer Lawrence doing some ballet moves and how she was “merged” in with a professional – Isabella Boylston.
- A Puzzle of Need: Post-Production – This covers the obligatory post production aspects like editing and the film’s score.
- Audio Commentary by Francis Lawrence – Francis Lawrence gives a fairly standard, yet enthusiastic track here that focuses on some of the more technical elements of the film. If you’ve watched all of the supplements, it can be a bit redundant, but fans of the film or Lawrence’s commentary tracks will enjoy this.
- 10 Deleted Scenes (With Optional Commentary by Francis Lawrence) – The film, already at 140 minutes, was in desperate need of trimming. Included here are 10 scenes, all with optional commentary by Lawrence (Francis, not Jennifer).
The Bottom Line
I wanted to like Red Sparrow, I really did, but it’s a tough one to sit through. It’s unusual for a film of this sort, involving a regular girl becoming a spy to be so downright boring. It has moments that show promise, but can’t bring things together in a satisfying manner. Skip it.