Will the Sparrow fall?

Red Sparrow (2017)
Director Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence

This may well be the best Hollywood propaganda film made since Hitchcock’s North By North-West during the First Cold War. It comes as no surprise then that it’s based on a 2013 novel by former CIA operative Jason Mathews. Spies never retire so they say, and as a writer Mathews would appear to vindicate this saying. Certainly, the CIA is portrayed in this film as a terribly nice outfit, which fights for human rights and the individual and even responsibly admits to being occasionally naughty in the fight for good against evil.

The attempt to sell this ideological pup is so blatant that we can ignore it and settle back to enjoy a tasty spy thriller. Why let a bit of bogus bunkum get in the way of a good story, particularly having paid the price of a ticket? The writing is competent, as is the direction, and the ensemble cast, including Jeremy Irons bravely led by Jennifer Lawrence in the title role, guarantees our attention and viewing pleasure. Miss Lawrence can indeed act and her stunning beauty in the role of a strong and yet vulnerable woman is not something that heterosexual males in the audience will hold against her.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a prima ballerina whose career is tragically ended by accident and injury. All her security and that of her mother, from income to accommodation, disappears overnight. Enter her sinister uncle, an officer of the Russian Federal Security Bureau, to offer employment in his line of work. For her mother’s sake, she allows herself to be recruited and trained by a very dour Charlotte Rampling.

Egorova’s personality is apparently remoulded, to make her put her brain and sexuality at the service of the State with a very big `S’, which demands her loyalty in return for the privilege of education. Female agents of this kind are known as Red Sparrows, oddly enough in a story set after the fall of the Berlin Wall in what is clearly the Putin era, where the FSB has gleefully inherited the dastardly traditions and practices of the KGB. Dominika, however, subtly contrives to preserve something of her original true self, but it is as an apparently loyal Red Sparrow that she meets and falls in love with a CIA agent sent to turn her, another spy with a heart of gold. The plot thickens & develops agreeably, so we won’t spoil any further 2 hours of cinema.

Hollywood is mainly Democrat, so this film is very much an expression of Clintonite sour grapes for Hilary’s woeful politics and campaigning, with its pretence that Russian meddling determined the election of Trump. To be enjoyed on DVD

David Faber is an Adelaide historian, poet & community activist.