Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) a top-flight Russian
ballerina. She lives in a
small but cozy flat with her Mom, who's not in great health and needs
caretaking. Dominika is not
married and doesn't have any children; her life has been her ballet
career. But then comes the
horrific injury suffered during a performance.
Her male lead falls on her leg, bending it backwards, and though
immediate surgery saved her leg, she's not going to dance any more.
The problem is that the apartment was also owned by the ballet
company, and now she's no longer eligible for it.
She has no other skills. But
she does have an Uncle in the SVR, the foreign intelligence service, the
successor to the KGB. He's not
a nice man, and hasn't had much to do with the family since his brother,
Dominika's father, died. But
her Uncle offers her a chance to go to a special training school for
Russian agents. The women who
go there are called Sparrows because they're all young and attractive, and
because they're expendable. They
have nothing left to lose. And
they're treated like they are the property of their country.
But Dominika is a survivor. She's
used to punishing her body for her ballet, so the physical stuff is no
problem. It's the part about
overcoming her pride. They
want to break everybody down so they will do anything for their country.
Including using their own bodies.
They are prepared for this by being subject to humiliation and
degradation in front of everyone else.
So they will stop thinking that their bodies are their own.
The Sparrows are also taught in the fine arts of seduction,
deception, and how to “read” people.
What do they really want, and what can I do to provide that for
them? There's no judging of
any perversion, because it might be an entree to a new source.
And all the Sparrows know that if they're compromised, they'll be
eliminated. And if they betray
the program, they'll be tortured before they're eliminated.
Dominika is an exceptional student, mainly because she has a gift
already for perceiving what it is that people really want.
And because she's mentally tough and physically fit.
She's a natural. And so
they send her on her first assignment, where her handlers demonstrate to
her that they don't tell her everything.
In fact, they deliberately deceive her in order to accomplish a
mission that she didn't know anything about beforehand.
“Need to know.”
Dominika catches a potential break when she learns that her
roommate, also an agent, is just beginning to “turn” a foreign
operative, and Dominika manages to insert herself into the action.
Along the way, she meets an American CIA agent, Nate (Joel
Edgerton), and together they try to figure out how they can both survive.
Or is her attraction to him purely manipulative on her part?
Yes, so much double-crossing and plot twists that we're not even
sure we understood it all, even at the end.
But it's a breathless and gritty take on the ancient art of
statecraft. Not for the
genteel souls. And if the real
spies we know are out there are really this good, we could be in more
trouble than we think.