Tag Archives: Matthias Schoenaerts

Red Sparrow

I really didn’t want Red Sparrow to be the dud everyone says it is, but.. yeah it is. I mean, I’ve got love right off the bat for a hard R rated spy flick released by major studios, and this one earns it’s R rating so much so that it’s nasty business to sit through. I just wish it had the aptitude to be more than a cold, unremitting series of events that go far beyond unfortunate. More than anything I’m just proud of Jennifer Lawrence for taking on such a dangerous, vulnerable role, she’s a natural born star and any project she’s attached to is lucky to have her. She just had the shitty luck of her immense talent being drowned in a sea of sadism and ultimate boringness here, which is a shame. Playing a Russian ballet dancer who’s career is cut short by an injury, her shady pervert uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) recruits her for Sparrow School, a twisted spy academy that focuses on sex as a weapon, where she undergoes rigid, perverse training under the stern watch of Matron (Charlotte Rampling, terrifying). This is all run by the government in secret, and soon she becomes involved in a confusing cloak and dagger operation involving American agent Nate (Joel Edgerton), which frequently sees her in degrading, sexually violent situations that seem a bit excessive after a while. I’ll always champion R rated films and there’s some wicked bloody action here involving her training, but the lurid psychosexual stuff is kind of sickening and seems tacked on like a pornographic sheen. The cast is alarmingly first rate, with work from Joely Richardson, Ciaran Hinds, a bored looking Jeremy Irons and a drunken cameo from Mary Louise Parker. No one seems to really fit into the story though and the film struggles to hold our attention beyond just being in shock and actually giving a shit about the story, which is grey and lifeless. It also can’t decide on it’s setting either; everything about the film screams 70’s/80’s Cold War era, until Rampling’s character refers to the West as fixated on shopping and “social media”, which sounds suspiciously like a line that was added in reshoots to try and update a preexisting setting, the worst kind of continuity error because it’s deliberate. There’s literally not a single cell phone visible at any time!! Cmon guys, get your shit straight. It’s sad because there’s a lot of sumptuous atmosphere here that goes to waste, as does a magisterial score by James Newton Howard. The biggest crime here though is how great Jennifer Lawrence is in the role, and how royally the film just lets her down. She’s resilient, tough and smart running down a gauntlet of predators, assassins and danger, but none of that is as good as it sounds, and she deserves better.

-Nate Hill

THOMAS VINTERBERG’S FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

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Charlotte Bruus Christensen is the true star of Thomas Vinterberg’s exquisitely produced film version of the classic Thomas Hardy novel Far From the Madding Crowd. Christensen is a camera artist that I’ve previously not been aware of, but now my attention is on full alert. Her work here is the definition of painterly and sumptuous, with one shot after another that feels museum worthy, utilizing lush color, a terrific sense of composition, and more than a few instances of natural light that felt like the actors and crew were filming at some very extreme or odd hours in an effort to capture the organic beauty of the landscape. I’m always ready to get swept up by intoxicating cinematic imagery, so I have to say, this one immediately grabbed me from that perspective. The film itself is a solid soap opera, anchored by the radiant Carey Mulligan, playing an interesting if emotionally prickly character that makes a bunch of mistakes along the way to potential happiness. The trio of suitors who all come calling for her are played by Michael Sheen (perfectly square), Jim Sturgess (perfectly sleazy), and Matthias Schoenaerts (perfectly hunky). All three men get some quality moments, and the script changes perspective a few times which I found clever, but this is certainly Mulligan’s story, and she, rather expectedly, handles it all with class and charm. There are some WTF? moments of character motivation and there’s a haphazardly directed scene involving Juno Temple missing her wedding (I know these were the days before texting but c’mon!), but overall, this is an enjoyable, comforting piece of costume drama, splendid in all area of production value (the costumes and set decoration are divine), but really bolstered by the magnificent eye of a cinematographer who took full advantage of the pristine landscapes, over-cast British skies, and lots and lots of sheep. Did I mention there’s tons of sheep in this film? Be still my heart.

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