Sparrow school turns out some scary spies by Richard Jones

SparrowA look at Red Sparrow (MA)

Jennifer Lawrence rates as one of Hollywood’s genuine stars although in her latest film she takes a bit of a beating.

This comes in the form of psychological and mental bullying at spy school and out in the field in Budapest and later back home in Moscow – hard-core torture and thrashings.

Lawrence is ballerina Dominica Egorova who suffers a career ending leg injury mid-performance in Moscow.

Desperate for money to support not only herself but also her invalid mother Dominica accepts an offer from her creepy uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Vanya suggests she enrol in Russia’s top spy school where the Matron (Charlotte Rampling) drills her male and female students in the use of sex to elicit secrets.

Vanya is highly regarded by the chief of the FSB (what we all used to know as the KGB), a man called Zakharov (Ciaran Hinds).

His offsider is General Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons) with all of them – Lawrence included – speaking in dismal Russian accents. That’s English with supposed Russian inflections.

So off Dominica goes to Budapest after graduating with distinction from what she terms “whore school” to home in on CIA target Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton).

The purpose of all this is to unravel the identity of the double agent – the mole – ensconced in the top echelon of the Russian security service.

He’s channelling top drawer information to the Americans. Nash is known to be his contact in the west.

Unfortunately for Dominica her female Budapest flatmate, also a Russian spy, is brutally murdered and left in the bathtub. Surely a warning for the young woman to tread warily.

Next stop is a London hotel where a needy US Senator’s chief of staff (Mary-Louise Parker) is inveigled into handing over some top secret discs.

It’ll cost $250,000 she tells Dominica and her Budapest bureau boss as the American downs a large portion of a bottle of vodka.

Dominica swaps the real discs for some fakes after retreating into a bedroom, ostensibly to copy the ones handed over by the American.

She and the Budapest boss are both in trouble when the inebriated woman lurches down the Mayfair hotel steps, notices some obvious security men lurking about, tosses the bag of money into a rubbish bin and is then promptly run down by a delivery van.

Back to Moscow they go. Dominica is brutally interrogated about whether she arranged the American woman’s death and erased most of the taped material.

Next door the Budapest bureau chief is shot at point blank range in the head, but Dominica refuses to break down.

Uncle Vanya intercedes before Dominica dies from her beatings and water torture treatment yet the tough Red Sparrow still has one last card to play.

It involves Nash and his CIA mates with one of cinema’s favourite endings to spy movies: the handover at a bridge or an airport. Naturally security men of both sides police the swap as the to-be traded spooks (the Red Sparrow included) step warily to their safe havens: waiting helicopters with engines running.

Will there be snipers in place, though?

Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) has done a creditable job in moulding everything together, although the terrible Russian accents – Irons and Hinds included – become a little grating towards the end of the 140 minutes.   


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