Red Sparrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
For those of us that aren’t huge fans of the genre, spy films are very hit or miss. Thanks to James Bond, audiences expect an action packed, gadget filled film with a quick pace that keeps the audience engaged the whole time. That’s a bit of a disservice to the genre since there are many decent films in this category that are smart and make the audience analyze right along with the characters. I wish I could say that RED SPARROW fell into this latter category, but in actuality the film just falls flat. I think director Francis Lawrence was trying to give audiences a strong female lead that is trained to use her body to get the job done, but instead outsmarts her superiors. Unfortunately, the main and supporting characters were just too dull to do anything but bore the audience, almost to a point you forgot this was a high stakes spy movie.
RED SPARROW follows the story of former Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) as she goes through a specialized training that emphasizes using her body to accomplish her mission instead of using her brain. After her training is complete, she must go into the field to uncover a mole threatening both Russia and the U.S. by targeting a C.I.A. agent named Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). As she’s on her journey, she must navigate the twisted motives of her uncle while giving each side just enough to let her get what she really wants.
RED SPARROW started out fairly strong as we are introduced to Dominika, a talented ballet dancer whose career is cut short and she is forced into this new degrading situation by her smarmy uncle. The story is interesting as the audience watches her go through the “sparrow” training, which is disturbing and disgusting, before she goes into the field on her first assignment where the story begins to fall flat. A promising spy film starts to get dull as the plot gets more convoluted by the minute. And maybe this is my frustration with Marvel speaking, but I couldn’t help but think this movie would have been so much better with a lot more Black Widow.
Despite the less than stellar plot, the acting from Jennifer Lawrence was very well done. Her presence on the screen, despite what mediocre characters are thrown her way, is very impressive. Lawrence has a charismatic allure that not many female actresses in Hollywood possess right now. However, not even she could make this boring role fascinating to watch. There were several scenes throughout the film, whether it be a torture scene or a love-making scene, that emotionally fell flat due to the lack of interesting characters.
I think the intent to make a film with a strong and smart female character was in the right spirit for RED SPARROW, unfortunately the execution and story told didn’t match up to the vision of director Francis Lawrence. I had high hopes for a good female spy film, but in the end RED SPARROW was a letdown. I sincerely hope the lack of success of RED SPARROW doesn’t discourage Hollywood from making another spy film, but next time the heroine needs a better story.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Despite being a very dark film, I thoroughly enjoyed the 4K presentation of RED SPARROW. The use of color really stood out on the 4K compared to the Blu-ray and I found myself noticing some of the color nuances that weren’t evident before. For example, at around the two hour mark Jennifer Lawrence’s character gets out of a hospital bed and behind her, the wall is made of tiny green tiles. On the 4K, you can see the various shades of green in the tiles and the details around them. It’s a simple scene, but the clarity and color definition of the 4K really stands out in scenes like that across the film. The hotel room scene in the beginning is another example where her dress is a deep, bright red compared to her drab surroundings. RED SPARROW might not have the visually “wow” moments of some other films, but this is a very nice transfer.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is also very nice, even if it’s not constantly in your face about it. When the surround and overhead channels are used, they’re used very effectively and add another dimension to the film.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which has the following special features:
Commentary by Director Francis Lawrence: As far as commentary’s go, this one was average. Lawrence isn’t the most thrilling speaker, but he walks us through the making of the film, usually sticking to the technical aspects of directing.
A New Cold War: Origination and Adaptation (12:43) A standard featurette that includes some behind-the-scenes footage as well as some interviews from the cast and crew.
Agents Provocateurs: The Ensemble Cast (15:20) Discussion of the characters that has some mildly interesting tidbits.
Tradecraft: Visual Authenticity (13:29) This featurette mostly focuses on the production design and locations used through the film.
Heart of the Tempest: Locations (10:55) Production Designer Maria Djurkovic discusses how her and Director Francis Lawrence worked on keeping bits of the film consistent throughout the many difference locations in the film.
Welcome to Sparrow School: Ballets and Stunts (12:11) The most interesting featurette, in my opinion, about the ballet integration in the film between Jennifer Lawrence and Isabella Boylston.
A Puzzle of Need: Post-Production (14:09) A featurette about the score, editing and such.
Deleted Scenes (12:21) feature Optional Commentary from Director Francis Lawrence, nothing too exciting unless you just enjoy deleted scenes.