Starring: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown
Director: Reed Morano
Running Time: 109 mins
The Rhythm Section is an American/British film about a young woman who, after years of suffering in silence following the death of her family in a terrorist attack, finds herself in the position to take direct revenge on the man who took them from her.
While The Rhythm Section isn’t the world’s most heart-racing action-thriller, often wildly overestimating its own intensity, it does provide surprising excitement and investing character development throughout. Evolving effectively from the start, the film twists and turns in genuinely gripping fashion, building to a captivating finale brought to life by an outstanding lead turn from Blake Lively.
Now, this film is by no means edge-of-your-seat, heart-stopping stuff. It’s entertaining and action-packed, but I got the sense that it was really aiming for something a little more intense, both on an emotional level and with its gritty atmosphere.
At times, the violence and action do lend the film a certain grit, but they do little to really amp up its emotional intensity, something that always feels lacking as we follow a young woman go to extremes to take revenge on the man who killed her family.
In that, The Rhythm Section is never as heart-racing as the likes of Taken, and it’s also never quite as sleek and eye-catching as the likes of Atomic Blonde, with a gritty atmosphere that undermines what ultimately becomes a rather enjoyable and potentially slick globe-trotting espionage thriller.
Now, while that’s evidence of director Reed Morano not doing all that much to keep the film consistent and well-held together, that doesn’t mean The Rhythm Section doesn’t have its strengths.
Because, although it’s not a spectacular watch, I really enjoyed this film as a character piece more than anything else. Its action is good, and the movie definitely gets into its stride in its latter stages with a little more espionage intrigue, but it’s the character development that really makes The Rhythm Section genuinely captivating throughout.
The story of a downtrodden young woman whose life has been wrecked following her family’s deaths in a terrorist attack, the film follows her fascinating arc from the doldrums of London to the heights of international espionage. And what’s more, it manages to do so in a convincing and thoroughly engrossing way.
Its earlier stages are a little messy, but once we get to the middle portion of the film where she begins to train under the direction of Jude Law’s ex-MI6 agent, those grittier vibes hit home really well, as she’s forced to overcome immense odds to become an entirely different person, capable of taking on international enemies.
In that, Blake Lively’s performance is absolutely vital to making the central character arc work so well. Above all, it’s the physicality of her performance that’s so striking, from her dark, downtrodden persona early on all the way to physically demanding and impressive feats in the film’s more action-packed periods.
But what’s more is that she gives the character real likability and, most importantly of all, vulnerability. Given that this is the story of a woman coming from nothing to becoming a super-spy, there has to be a sense of jumping into the unknown, and fortunately Lively delivers that brilliantly.
Along with a well-written screenplay, we see Lively struggle both physically and emotionally as she comes up against obstacle after obstacle, giving a convincing development arc rather than just seeing her become an invincible, emotionless super-spy in the vein of James Bond.
As a result, you form a strong connection with her that stays strong in the film’s latter stages, making the action all the more captivating. The revenge element of the plot is far from effective, but her vulnerability in the field makes for gripping viewing, and offers genuine unpredictability compared with most generic action-thrillers.
In that, it’s fair to say that The Rhythm Section isn’t quite the nail-biting thriller to put you on the edge of your seat. It’s by no means as intense as it thinks it is, and misses the mark on its revenge themes as well as its gritty atmosphere.
However, with a genuinely impressive central character arc that offers gripping drama throughout, the film is a captivating watch, all bolstered by a brilliantly physical and layered lead performance from Blake Lively. So, that’s why I’m giving The Rhythm Section a 7.4 overall.