Red Sparrow Ditches USB Sticks, CDs, Uses 3.5-Inch Floppies Instead

Image: Red Sparrow / 20th Century Fox

Due for national release tomorrow, Red Sparrow is basically an old-fashioned spy movie set in a modern setting. And because we're dealing with spies, someone has to transfer information somehow. But Red Sparrow has a weird way of doing that.

I'll avoid spoilers as much as I can, and Tegan and I will talk more about the film later this week. But there's one segment that just doesn't quite fit, and since it's easily missed it's worth letting you all know. That said, without further ado:

Just after the middle arc of the film, Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes embroiled in the recruitment of a chief of staff to an American senator, Boucher (Mary-Louise Parker). Boucher asks for $US250,000, for which she will hand over "disks" with stolen satellite images of some sort.

The trade is all set to take place in a hotel. The Americans, however, have already hidden duplicate disks in the hotel for Dominika to swap out. An unexpected visit by the SVR station chief in Budapest complicates matters, but after a good bout of intoxication, Boucher arrives and hands over the disks.

A series of 3.5" inch floppy disks, rubber-banded together, to be precise.

Spying for dummies. Image: Wikipedia

From memory, Boucher hands over about four five or six 3.5" floppies. Each 3.5" floppy can only store a maximum of 1.44MB, and given that Boucher isn't pitched (in the book or the movie) as someone with an extensive amount of technical experience, it's not a stretch to imagine that the images would have been in JPG, PNG, PDF, or another common format.

What's equally perplexing amongst all this is that Red Sparrow is set in the modern day. Towards the beginning of the film, the matron of the school for sparrows explicitly mentions social media. Social media didn't kick in until around 2005-2007, and the matron also adds that the Cold War never ended. On top of that, other members of the film directly reference the SVR by name (rather than the KGB), reinforcing the fact that the movie is set in a post CD-ROM era.

With all that considered, wouldn't a chief of staff to a US senator be more likely to use a USB drive - or at the very least, a CD-ROM? Furthermore, how many laptops post-social media actually have a floppy disk drive? And how many of them would you find in Congress?

It's all just a little bit confusing. Anyway, if you do happen to see Red Sparrow, keep your eye out for the floppies.

Update: As per the magnetic/optical rule, going with "disks". Thanks all!


    Minor gripe Alex but when you're talking about floppies, it's "disk" with a 'k', not a 'c'. The "disc" spelling is for optical media (compact discs/dvds/blu rays), the "disk" spelling was for floppies (both the 5.25" and 3.5" varieties) and also technically your hard disk (both the internal and external varieties) too.

    It's easy to forget this because floppies haven't seen used for so long, and most people refer to hard disks as hard drives - but yes, floppy disks uses the 'k' spelling :)

      I'm going to have to disagree with you there, we were told to spell them disc for floppies in AU when we used 8" ones with the Microvax mini computer we had in form 7.

      Yeah, I'm oldish.

        You might be slightly older than me. We saw very few 8" disks. We had quite a few 5.25" disks and then afterwards the 3.5" disks.

        Disk is short for floppy diskette though. Although companies like IBM marketed them as such, the public always liked to use the shortened name. We always used 'disk' in the 80s. Never even used 'disc' when CD-ROM came in. Used 'CD' instead. I reckon your teachers were misinformed :-)

        Magnetic disks are always spelled with a 'k'. Optical discs are spelled with a 'c'.

        As you can see even the older 8" disks are spelled with a 'k' rather than a 'c', and no it's not a regional thing either...the 'disk' spelling is always used to refer to magnetic computer storage media no matter what country you're form. The 'c' spelling didn't start until Phillips and Sony developed the compact disc, and now that spelling is used to refer to optical storage media.

        Disk, short for diskette. A disc is a flat circular object like a CD, compact disc.

          And a diskette is a holder of single or multiple discs. Ok I'm starting to get confused too.

    Very happy to defer to everyone's ruling on k vs c here.

    (oh god be kind to that sentence)

      This will be my act of charity today :p

      Why can't we have both? 'Dicks' would make everyone happy!


        Except if they're floppy dicks.

          I dunno, at least floppy dicks can be exposed for our pleasure - although some have those sliding covers - whereas hard dicks must be locked away in a protective casing. Chastity belt eat your heart out!


    Interesting language debate aside, that would be a pretty secure way to transport secure files.

    "Aha! We stole their data! Now we can just upload them and uh..oh. do we...where do we even get something that can read this?!"

      Oh, I dunno, about 5 seconds on ebay or several online computer retailers will net you a shiny, brand new, USB floppy disk drive.
      At least for 3.5 inch disks this really isn't an obscure enough format yet to be much of a challenge.
      newly manufactured 3.5 inch disk drives are still cheap and plentiful.
      The media itself is actually your bigger challenge, nowadays...

        Not very secret agenty to then order one on eBay and wait for it to be delivered

    I think its cute that someone managed to 3D print a copy of the save icon, AND turn them into something that could hold data!

    Mad skillz.

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