In modern-day Russia, a prima ballerina has her high hopes scattered by an unfortunate injury. Forced to work as a so-called "Red Sparrow" spy, her secret missions take her from Moscow to Budapest, London and Vienna. But when this extraordinary clever spy starts to play according to her own rules, the dangerous game of spies spirals out of control…
The Story: Stage to Spy
Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is a prima ballerina with a bright future ahead of her. But when her dance partner causes her to fall, her dancing career dreams suddenly come to an abrupt end.
In an attempt to secure her own future and that of her sick mother, Dominika is forced to work for her ruthless mafia boss uncle Ivan Dimitrevich Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts) as a Russian spy.
At Sparrow School, the newly recruited "Red Sparrow " learns how to use the charms of her body as a secret weapon to manipulate powerful men. Then, Dominika is send on her first mission to Budapest, Hungary where she is expected to seduce the former C.I.A. agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton).
This mission, however, soon spirals out of control as the ever so stubborn Dominika dares to step out of the straight line dictated to her by her uncle…
The Location: From "Moscow with Love" via Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and London
Contrary to the novel, which is largely set in Helsinki, Finland, the producers of the film chose Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, as the centre of the spy action. “I think we all collectively fell in love with Budapest,” says David Ready, one of the film's producers. “There was so much that was already there. Budapest turned out to be a magical place for the movie, in terms of the locations we could find, and in the spirit of the place.”
Locations in Budapest included Heroes Square and Fiumei Cemetery. Furthermore, Budapest’s Opera House doubled for the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Another Budapest location was the fancy New York Café inside the Boscolo Hotel. With the extreme gold overload, you would really not notice that this hotel wasn't actually in Russia.
The exteriors for State School Four were filmed in Dég, Hungary, just over an hour outside of Budapest. And many of the Sparrow School interior scenes were filmed at a rural cultural center and abandoned factory in Dunaújváros, Central Hungary.
The crew also went to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In fact, most of the "Russian" exteriors and interiors as well as the Langley office interiors were shot here.
For the Vienna scene, we see Jennifer Lawrence briefly crossing Vienna's most famous square: The Michaelerplatz in front of Vienna's imperial "Hofburg" palace. In the film, Dominika opens a bank account with the help a young Austrian bank clerk played by upcoming German actor Louis Hofmann.
And after their one-day stint in Vienna, the company moved to London for wrapping up the film at Heathrow Airport and the Corinthia Hotel. “That’s part of the fun of the spy genre: you get to hop around to all of these different places,” says associate producer Cameron MacConomy. “You’re always switching gears, both in terms of story, and visually.”
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The Performance: A Russian Katniss Everdeen
I couldn't help but compare Jennifer Lawrence's performance in Red Sparrow to that of her most famous role to date. Just like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012), Dominika is a real fighter and it is a delight to follow her on her harsh, but adventurous spy journey.
At the same time though, there are several brutal murders, torture and rape… so this movie definitely is not for the faint-hearted!
What really shocked me was when I noticed that this film is not set during the Cold War period at some point in the 1950s or 60s… Instead, Red Sparrow takes place in the here and now! This becomes clear when a surveillance camera displays 2017 as the year of recording. And of course when people are getting out their modern smartphones…
And somehow, I couldn't help but notice a certain resemblance of Matthias Schoenaerts' character to the most powerful man in Russia…
The final verdict:
If you liked Black Swan, you will enjoy Red Sparrow! Just prepare yourself for some graphic violence and you'll be dying to follow Jennifer Lawrence on her epic spy journey!
**** 4 out of 5 stars