Classified as a contemporary cold war screenplay story starring accomplished actors including Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Matthias Schoenaerts & Joel Edgerton, each making this complex yet captivating thriller of a film authentically enticing, in lead Jennifer Lawrence, we found a flawed performance due to her dreadful Russian double agent accent that marred an otherwise masterful motion picture, so why did this clumsy caricature cloud our conclusion and who proved the “Red Sparrow” saving grace?
When it comes to spy thriller films of novels, the twenty-five strong 007 screenplay’s aside, top of the pile has to go to those adapted from the books of both John Le Carre and Frederick Forsyth, films from the former including recent releases “Our Kind Of Traitor” & “A Most Wanted Man”, with cinematic classics from the latter extending to “The Day Of The Jackal”, “The Odessa File” & (our favourite) “The Fourth Protocol”, each setting out a significant stool come pedestal for motion pictures attempting to follow in their footsteps to either ascend to or at least partially emulate. Yet the broad spectrum that the subject of espionage serves up, means that a mound of movie’s aim their bow & arrow at this bountiful bullseye, some succeeding more than others, many masquerading as such but end up flattering to deceive, often the stumbling block being either an implausible storyline or, equally, appalling character acting, all too often exemplified by awful accents. So, with the latest pretender to the Le Carre & Forsyth pedestal, “Red Sparrow”, under our review microscope, where does it sit in the grand scheme we have set, the sort answer being close but no cigar, due in no part to another example of an appalling accent, on this occasion, delivered with demonstrative effect by the film’s lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, she of “The Hunger Games” series of screenplays, but also of more recent questionable motion pictures “Mother” & “Passengers” in which she clearly sought to shed her Katniss Everdeen persona. However, in Russian ballerina turned state appointed & supported intelligence double agent, Dominika Egorova, it is the clumsy accent that through & through American actress Lawrence deploys that is the downfall of this film, there in fact some scenes where she is found slipping into her native tongue, one instance so glaring that we were surprised it wasn’t picked up either in filming or editing of the otherwise excellent espionage example that is fortunate in flaunting enough redeeming features to save it from our scathing cutting room floor rubbishing come sweeping.
So, what was & who were the rescuing from Lawrence’s lousy accent redemptions and how did they affect our rating for this jinxed by scripting in Jennifer screenplay? Well, first & foremost are, for us, two towering performances from accomplished English actors Jeremy Irons & Charlotte Rampling, their RADA trained pedigrees shining through significantly, even their Russian accents plausible enough to belie their British roots. Then there were the two other headline leads, Flemish favourite Matthias Schoenaerts who is cleverly convincing in his role as SVR intelligence head, Vanya Egorov (Dominika’s influential uncle), while Australian born actor Joel Egerton is just as convincing as CIA agent, Nathan Nash, both Egerton & Schoenaerts like Irons & Rampling, much more suited to their character castings than the awkwardly picked in our view Lawrence, even the fact that the director of this prominent at the box office motion picture, shares the same surname not doing this film any favour in our books. That said, the settings which shift superbly between Moscow, Budapest, Vienna & London, along wit the complex plot that requires acute attention to follow & figure out at times, also saves this screenplay for significant scourging, although the unabated disturbing & violent scenes that pepper this adapted from the book by Jason Matthews movie, are uncomfortably wincing come toe curling, while given the subject matter and storyline perhaps come with the territory. Then there is the length which, at just short of two & a half hours, is at times laborious and repetitive, but had the screenwriters stuck relatively rigidly to the book & its multiple character narrations, it would have been even longer. However, on the side of “Red Sparrow” is current affairs relevance and one which may see an extended run on the cinema circuit, as, given the hefty headlines dominating the news over the nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury, serves this screenplay well enough for us to forgive that lousy Lawrence accent, rather extol in the many other virtues of this movie. (DISCO MATT)