Reed Morano’s The Rhythm Section attempts to take the spy genre and flip it on its head. This narrative is stripped of any glitz, leaving us with a tale of trauma and how it can propel some to seek revenge. The problem with the film doesn’t stem from any direction or performance issues, quite the contrary. The Rhythm Section was adapted for the screen by the same person who wrote the highly successful thriller in 2011, Mark Burnell. Burnell doesn’t nearly have enough experience adapting literary works, and it indeed showed.
The best adaptations are those who understand the power of cinema as a visual medium. Gerwig’s recent project, Little Women, certainly didn’t turn her screenplay into a verbatim retelling of the book. Burnell didn’t seem to get the memo. Rather than tweaking his original text, audiences are subjected to Stephanie’s (Blake Lively) long protracted moments of “mental anguish,” which, after to awhile, snaps the audience right out of what’s unfolding. This movie could have easily been 90 minutes instead of almost 2 hours.
The Rhythm Section is the story of Stephanie Patrick (Lively) and her quest to find answers following the death of her family after their flight was bombed, leaving no survivors. After seeking the help of a freelance journalist, they track down who might have had in the bombing of that plane. After an altercation between Patrick and the accused killer leads to the journalist being shot, she seeks the help of a former MI-6 agent turned contact played by Jude Law.
Blake Lively was dynamite as Stephanie and indeed showed a side of her that most have never seen. She was a total badass. Lively will surprise audiences the same way Charlize did during Atomic Blonde in 2017. Seeing her in this genre made me wish The Rhythm Section had more action sequences in it. Jude Law was certainly solid in the role of contact/mentor for Stephanie as they attempt to track the terrorist known as U-17. There seem to be areas in his character which aren’t fully developed which knocked the film down a few pegs for me.
Hans Zimmer crafted a lovely score for the film, which embodies the torment of Lively’s character is going through. Sean Bobbitt did a fantastic job shooting The Rhythm Section. Bobbit made ample use of handheld cameras and close up shots, which enhanced any of the action sequences during the 2nd act of the film. It’s hard not to feel that this was a missed opportunity because The Rhythm Section at times was certainly entertaining. As it stands now, the film is nothing more than a mediocre narrative elevated by a terrific performance from Lively.