Dominica Egorova’s (Jennifer Lawrence) life turns upside down when, during a Bolshoi Theatre performance, she collides with her partner and breaks her leg. An accident or not, a prima balerina with a broken leg has to end her career. The problem is that Dominica also has to support her infirm mother whose care used to be financed by her employer, the Bolshoi Theatre.
Here comes her uncle, Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts, strangely reminding me of younger Putin), the deputy director of SVR. He approaches the girl with a proposition she cannot refuse – one private meeting with a Russian oligarch-cum-gangster in a posh Moscow hotel and she won’t have any financial worries anymore. Dominica is apprehensive but she agrees. During the meeting she is brutally raped and then she witnesses the execution of the gangster from really close quarters. Now, she has no choice – either she joins the elite Swallow School for Russian spies or she dies an SVR leaves no civilian eyewitnesses of their shenanigans.
Dominica has to fight for her freedom while pretending that she goes along with the scenario, prepared for her by the uncle who tasks her with finding out the identity of a double agent among Russian counterintelligence agents. Will she manage to break free?
I really liked the story of Dominica because it ringed true but I have to warn you – this movie is rather graphic. It was based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews and shows a nasty underbelly of spying trade – solitude, lack of trust, constant danger and stress, witnessing horrible crimes, lack of personal safety. It is a kind of dark side of James Bond movies which usually focus on sparks and glitter.
I also liked the fact that the main character had to find a way out of her tight corner completely on her own – forget about knights in shiny armour who woud come to her help on white motocycles. Also Charlotte Rampling as the Headmistress of the Sparrow School was really cool.
When it came to the plot itself, it wasn’t that bad but it did feature several holes difficult to patch or understand. I didn’t appreciate torture scenes at all – they were nasty, full stop. After the final showdown I felt a bit underwhelmed and bleak but still more satisfied than after any James Bond movie.
If you ever toyed with an idea of becoming a spy, I guess after this movie you won’t be so sure. It is a sexist, brutal story of a woman forced to do dirty jobs for powerful men who treat her like a tool. Interesting but too bleak to be rewatched.