Certificate: 15

Running Time: 140 mins

Star Rating: 4/5

IN Francis Lawrence's white-knuckle espionage thriller Jennifer Lawrence gives all of herself - physically and emotionally - to the demanding title role. The Oscar winner exposes every inch of her body in scenes of masterful seduction and sickening subjugation, including multiple sexual assaults and stomach-churning bouts of torture, in a high-stakes game of post-Cold War cats and mice, torn from the pages of Jason Matthews's award-winning novel. It's certainly not a film for the squeamish. Lawrence weathers these bone-crunching blows, then shatters her character's soul to smithereens when she thinks no-one is looking, in the service of a tightly woven narrative, threaded with betrayal and daring double-crosses.

Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) is a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi Theatre who pirouettes to finance the medical care of her mother (Joely Richardson). The dancer suffers a horrendous injury on stage and three months later, as she hobbles through recovery, Dominika receives an unwelcome visit from her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), deputy director of the Russian Intelligence Service. He press-gangs his niece into the top-secret Sparrow project, which moulds attractive recruits into weaponised assets to strike at the heart of Western governments.

Red Sparrow is a muscular and engrossing thriller which revels in the tantalising disconnect between actions and words. Plot mechanics are well-oiled thanks to Matthews's source material - the author was a clandestine operations officer for the CIA. Consequently, screenwriter Justin Haythe concentrates on visualising mind games and daring power plays that leave us in the dark about characters' ulterior motives. The film soars on the wings of Lawrence's fearless performance.