Red Sparrow: A film that practices specifically for the male gaze

Red Sparrow is a 2018 spy film directed by Francis Lawrence, known previously for ‘I am Legend’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. It is based on a novel written by Jason Matthews and the screen adaptation was written by Justin Haythe. Following many trailers for this film and a lot of marketing, this film was successful in box office but reached mixed reviews and it is easy to see why.

Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballerina who looks after her ill Mother, but suffers an injury leaving her to be approached by her suspicious Uncle Ivan who predictably works for an area of Russian Intelligence. Dominika’s job is to seduce Russian politicians in exchange for medical care for her Mother. When things go wrong, Dominika is given a choice- work for Russian Intelligence or be executed so she’s not a witness.

From there, Dominika is sent away to become a ‘Sparrow’, an operative tasked with seducing her targets but stars cross when she begins working as a double agent for a CIA operative, putting her life at risk.

As you can see, the plot offers substance but the film itself doesn’t. Whereas what’s on screen usually translates the plot, I found myself having to google what was happening every ten minutes as the visuals made it quite vague and confusing. The film would have been more solid if the focus was not purely on sex, the camera angles follow Jennifer Lawrence’s naked body but doesn’t show the rest of the picture. This is a film specifically for the male gaze.

The male gaze is where women and the world are depicted from a heterosexual and masculine point of view, presenting Women as objects of male pleasure. I found that what was meant to be a complex and enjoyable plot, was masked by violence, sex and close up’s of Jennifer Lawrence- perfectly crafted for the male target audience but neglecting Jennifer Lawrence’s female fan base.

The fake Russian accents in the film were also very poor, with Lawrence’s American accent seeping in every other word. However, good effort for her acting on her part aside from the accent- she was the only character that was well thought out, the rest thin and transparent, no developments given. It’s unclear whether this was because of the amount they had to fit in to the time slot, but the book was praised for it’s characters. Could be it be lazy screenwriting for the passive audience?

This is a film that stereotypical masculine men watch with their friends with a beer. That should probably be the target audience, because it was not a film made with substance.

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