3 Stars – Challenging
What constitutes a morally “just war” in the 21st century? Is it stopping an evil dictator? Another Hitler? How do we face the hidden battles that go on beneath the surface in operations by the CIA or its equivalent in Russia or any other country? Perhaps most of us would rather not know what happens behind the scenes in the world of covert espionage and accept their pretense that it is justified to keep innocent citizens safe.
Red Sparrow takes us into the inner workings of a post-Soviet Russia that is still in a cold war battle with the United States. Both countries are more superficially civil in the 21st century, but beneath the surface not much has changed over the last 50 years.
What gives this story its captivating plot is the double and triple intrigue that occurs as the Russians recruit people into their system against their will and then send them off to become double agents who will infiltrate the spy operations of the United States. Among their recruits is Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) a promising young ballet star who unfortunately breaks her leg while performing on stage in Moscow.
Dominika is crippled so badly from her accident that her career as a dancer is over. In her despair in the months of recovery that follows, she discovers that her male co-star had set up the circumstances for her accident to eliminate her from the show and replace her with his own girlfriend and lover. What follows is an act of revenge, a cover-up by the government, and a recruitment into the world of the “red sparrows” – young women who will use whatever means necessary to serve the state – as an alternative to going to prison for her crimes. Was this a lucky break, or a setup by the government to get her into their service?
Dominika is trapped into a life she did not choose, betrayed by her family, and degraded in her sense of purpose and well-being. She also has to face the reality that the government will stop at nothing to get what it wants. The depravity of the world of spies is based on a complete belief that the ends justify the means.
This is not an easy film to watch and yet its graphic sexuality is less gratuitous and more aimed at letting you understand the depth of humiliation these women must endure. Needless to say, it is not a film for children or teenagers.
What the film does portray is the moral choices that each person has to make in order to live with themselves. This applies to the Americans as well as the Russians. When do you obey the state regardless of your convictions, and when do you choose to say no and suffer the consequences?
These counter-balancing values are portrayed and lived out by Dominika’s mother Nina Egorova (Joely Richardson), her uncle Vanya Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts) who recruits her into the Red Sparrows, Russian General Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons), the Red Sparrow’s Matron (Charlotte Rampling) who is without any level of feeling other than serving the state, and Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) the American CIA spy who develops a relationship with Dominika.
Most of us do not live in the dubious spy world, but we are ultimately responsible for it. Is it enough to elect a person we trust to be President and then hope that they will manage our policing of national defense? Do we have any responsibility to be a moral voice in our country as to how people are treated in war? Red Sparrow will put that question on the front burner for you to consider whether or not you will stir the pot.
- When morality becomes devoid of anything except the individual’s conscience what do you think will happen to our world? Do you believe every person answers to a higher moral law or not? Why do you answer as you do?
- Do you accept your responsibility to know what our government is doing around the world? Why or why not?
- How do you deal with your own vengeance for wrongs done to you?