Red Sparrow is a spy movie that doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to violence.
It follows the exploits of a former Russian ballerina Egorova – played by Jennifer Lawrence – who is forced to work for the government and attend “Sparrow School”, which trains its cadets in sex and manipulation.
Dominika is later forced out into the world in order to track down and steal secrets from an American CIA agent, played by Joel Edgerton, and throughout the film she is faced with brutal acts of violence, including the sexual kind.
Some critics have suggested the sexual violence depicted in the espionage thrill is too much, and the violation of women shouldn’t be used as a plot device so Yahoo Movies UK asked Joel what he thinks about this criticism.
“The sexual content of the movie is not for the sake of titillation,” the Australian actor said. “I don’t think [director] Francis [Lawrence] or Jennifer would have ever felt comfortable, and certainly they didn’t handle it this way, treating Sparrow School like it’s a way for people to get aroused watching the film.
“You know reading these stories now from the #MeToo campaign we try and empathise with the uncomfortability of being put in a situation that is sexually aggressive, and the film goes to that place.”
The actor says that the film presents a realistic depiction of sexual assault that isn’t romanticised.
“If you want to paint a picture of that film, that story, then why sanitise it?” Edgerton says. “On the flip side, she’s underestimated by all the men that put her in that place and everything that happens to her becomes artillery and a foundation for her vengeance, all be it a very strategic one.”
There has also been a lot of discussion about the nudity in the film, with Jennifer revealing that she thinks she made other people uncomfortable on set because she would walk around naked.
Edgerton doesn’t appear naked but he does have a couple of scenes just in his swimming trunks or underpants. When asked if he gets nervous, the actor replied “completely.”
“Look if you read a script and you see that on page 30 you gotta jump out of a pool and you’ve got just your underpants on in a torture scene, or whatever, yeah your vanity kicks in,” he says. “You definitely think about it.”
The film’s release certainly comes at a poignant moment with Russia under the political microscope for their alleged involvement in the 2016 US election and Hollywood has long had an appetite for spy and action movies concerning the Soviet Union.
“I think the stage was set with Reagan and Gorbachev and before that with the Bay of Pigs, I guess, as poor as my understanding of politics is, that the Russians were the evil baddies,” Joel said. “Every movie that seemed to be like an action movie when I grew up – apart from Chuck Norris’ villains who were always Vietnamese – but everything else that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, Russians were the baddies, until the terrible Middle Eastern people become the baddies.
“Hollywood just absurdly follows these trends and now it’s sort of flown back to Eastern Europe. Of course Die Hard proves all you need to have a good villain is that they have a European accent.”
Red Sparrow is out in cinemas on March 1