The aspect of a female Jason Bourne is a good progression but the essence of the origin needs to have dexterity. “The Rhythm Section” finds this but the pacing and intention is sometimes scattershot. Blake Lively, almost unrecognizable, really commits herself to the role showing the progression between rock bottom and confidence while still maintaining a level of humanity and realness. The interesting balance here is that is the first EON movie with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in a long time to be made outside the Bond franchise. Granted this was probably fueled by the idea of people wanting to see a female 007 which we apparently will get to see in “A Time To Die”. The best parts of “Rhythm Section” are the parts that the title comes from. The journey and training sequences between Blake Lively and Jude Law are the most dynamic and raw. When she returns into her Nikita state, the motivation, although true, don’t feel as grounded as they could be. The signals inherent in her interaction with Sterling K. Brown’s former CIA office are conflicted but not necessarily clear. This might be a consequence of her character’s focus but also disenchantment at certain points. Lively is consistent until the very end but the beats needed to be more consistent more in a general world sense. Lively is trying interesting approaches in her roles. Walking into a freezing lake as a test of survival by her own intention is both heartbreaking but world building as the viewer sees her shaking uncontrollably.
The movie is directed by Reed Morano who has shot films like “Frozen River” and “Skeleton Twins”. The visual language in interesting but almost too reminiscent of an independent film. It balances at time between handheld and Steadicam with some drone shots thrown in. The movie was made for a price for sure and the dexterity needed shooting on real locations like Madrid, NY, Tangiers and London is admirable. The song choices are both interesting and off-putting at times. The use of a cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” by Nirvana as seen in the trailer is perfect but not as powerful as it could be inside the film. The use of Peggy Lee and Elvis Presley really takes the themes of the story with the lyrics and speaks to it but tonally it feels slightly off. This might have been the intention of the filmmaker but it makes the film at times uneven. “Rhythm Section” is dynamic and admirable in the ways it tries to reinvent but also ground the genre with a slightly different approach. The title refers to the center inside of a person in which that core focus of an assassin becomes. Like Nikita or Bridget Fonda in “Point Of No Return” or even the recent “The Villainess” it is inherent of the individual story and where the pain ends and the living begins.
By Tim Wassberg