Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling
Director: Francis Lawrence
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Dominika Egorova is many things. A devoted daughter determined to protect her mother at all costs. A prima ballerina whose ferocity has pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit. A master of seductive and manipulative combat. When she suffers a career-ending injury, Dominika and her mother are facing a bleak and uncertain future. That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust.
The team of Jennifer Lawrence and Frank Lawrence have done multiple successful collaborations during The Hunger Game franchise and are back together to make a thrilling spy movie. With a stacked cast of world-class actors such as Lawrence, Edgerton, and Jeremy Irons, everything about this film on paper says it should stack up as a solid movie that adds to the genre. Unfortunately, despite a great performance by Lawrence, a convoluted plotline and dreadful pacing make sure that this movie will fade into obscurity.
The film follows Dominika (Lawrence) as she transitions from a former ballerina to an intelligence operative for the Russian government. As an operative in Budapest, her goal is to track down US operative Nate Nash (Edgerton) and find out who his mole within the Russian government is. Dominika’s character development is not clear once she leaves the country really starts to unravel as we are never sure of her true intentions, but we were never given the motivation for this deception. She immediately gets discovered by Nate, but she takes actions that make sure he finds out her identity. I believe this is because she wants to defect, but we do not know why she flips so quickly. This lack of clear development continues as the plot becomes confusing the character choices become more and more unclear. Some of the choices that Dominika do not seem to have any clear reason at the time and are only there to move the plot along. I understand that this is a thriller and that it needs to leave us with more to look for, but at the same time we need to have some sort of idea of what is going on. It makes the ending more satisfying as the result of these actions need to add up to something that the audience can trace instead of a series of flashbacks showing what we missed. Moving on to the acting, Lawrence gives another strong performance in a career that has already produced many, but there is one complaint I had about her performance as well as the performances of every Russian character in the film. All of these actors’ accents come and go out of nowhere and show no level of consistency. I thought for the first act of the film that Dominika’s teacher Matron (Rampling) was British until she tried to put on an accent. It can be very distracting to hear Lawrence go from a heavy Russian accent to a borderline American accent, so either find a way to make the accents stick the whole time or do not use the accents at all. Other than that, Lawrence gives a strong performance of a tortured soul just trying to do the right thing for her family. She goes through some truly horrifying events in the film, and the ability to showcase that level of pain to the audience is something to commend. Schoenaerts is an incredible foil to Lawrence’s character as someone who is willing to sacrifice anything, including his family, for the good of the country. The irony is not lost on me that Schoenaerts looks similarly to Vladimir Putin, so this really elevates the cast and adds an element of realism to it.
Overall, a bloated story holds back what otherwise could have an interesting and unique thriller. With a runtime of 140 minutes, you feel every moment of the film and instead of waiting for the next twist to happen, you end up waiting for the film to end. With a group of talented actors and a director that has a track record of both critical and commercial success, this film was a couple of decisions away from being something special, but will end up in the pit of obscurity.
Overall Score: 4/10