Red Sparrow (M18)
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorova, a former Russian ballerina coerced by her uncle and intelligence service bigwig (Matthias Schoenaerts) to be a Red Sparrow, a modern-day Mata Hari. Her first mission: get into the mind — and pants, preferably — of Joel Edgerton’s CIA spook and flush out a mole in the Kremlin.
The human psyche is like a puzzle, says Dominika’s icy instructor (Charlotte Rampling, terrific), so “learn to be the missing piece, and they’ll give you anything.” And Red Sparrow, based on a 2013 novel by ex-CIA operative Jason Matthews, is one riveting puzzle.
If you expect this to be another Salt or Atomic Blonde, be prepared to be disappointed ’cos this grown-up, gritty and brutal espionage thriller has more in common with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the TV show The Americans.
Most of the slow-burning action plays out in Dominika’s head — in a mental chess game, where her body is a weapon of mass distraction and a bargaining tool, and half the time she’s wondering if her superiors and enemies are one and the same.
It looks like J Law, fearless and feisty, has stumbled upon a potential franchise; she’s another atomic blonde. (***1/2)