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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Red Sparrow: Not The Americans

I saw Red Sparrow on the plane out to Pasadena Thursday night, where I spoke about "Mars and Religion" on a panel with James Heiser and Michael Waltemathe at the Mars Society Conference on Friday.  Hey, Mars is the Red Planet, right?  The movie and the conference were both excellent.  But I'd rate the conference a little higher.

In a phrase, Red Sparrow, about a female Russian agent with a license to kill, is no The Americans.  Which is not to say Red Sparrow isn't good and worth seeing.  It just doesn't break new ground in the genre.

Jennifer Lawrence's Dominika is an appealing, dangerous, deeply conflicted character, and Red Sparrow gets points for having us wonder about her ultimate loyalties until almost the very end, and being at least somewhat surprised if not shocked by the choices she makes.  But most of the characters around her are straight out of central casting, meaning we've seen them on screens many times before.

In the end, Red Sparrow almost seem more like a James Bond as woman movie - which there have also been plenty of - than a profound espionage movie like The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.  I guess the movie received special attention because Maria Butina has been so much in the news along with the Russians in general in our age of Trump and Russian meddling in our elections.  But in all fairness to Buttina, she may be a Russian agent, but we have no reason to think she's the kind who can fight like a karate master and kill on demand.

My recommendation:  Red Sparrow is well worth seeing on a plane, or on some cable or streaming service where you don't have to pay for it.  In that format, it's an enjoyable 2 hours and 20 mins.


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