When Dominika's education is complete, she's sent to seduce her target Nash, who we lose track of for stretches of the film. Eventually, the two strike up a romance based purely around their mutual love of swimming and the demands of the plot, which requires them to exchange top secret information, trade smoldering glances, and possibly betray one another. The mission is a familiar one: There's a mole deep in the Russian intelligence team and Dominika needs to find out who it is before he snuffs her out. Instead of feeling ripped from the headlines, the story resembles John le Carré fan fiction. It mistakes complexity for profundity. Sadism for empowerment. Tedium for tension.
Tasked with maintaining a Russian accent and playing ever-shifting motivations, Lawrence is in resilient survivor mode here. The script by Justin Haythe, who wrote last year's genuinely strange A Cure for Wellness, relies on acts of cruelty and torture, including a gruesome skin grafting scene, to punctuate the ho-hum spycraft. (One of the movie's big set-pieces is about copying information off floppy disks.) Lawrence doesn't get to play the humor in any of the often absurd scenarios, leaving tertiary characters like Bill Camp's CIA lifer and Mary Louise Parker's American traitor with a drinking problem to liven up the proceedings. By simply making a big choice, Parker nearly walks away with the movie.