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
The tendency of destiny sometimes precludes a changing perception of time. The latest entry into the Terminator franchise brings back the texture of Sarah Connor, the first coming of the female action hero besides Ripley for many years. Now in an era of strong female action roles, the most interesting play in the ideal of Sarah Connor is how tired you know she feels. The irony bakes into her hate, hate for the Terminator, hate for the impending doom, hate for the vigilante she has been forced to become. But Connor as a character has always been about survival. Without giving too much away to the plot, the notion of prophecy or The One as mainstreamed by “The Matrix” seems to add an idea that time fixes whatever changes have been made so the end result is the same. MacKenzie Davis comes in as a protector this time, an altered human sent to protect a young girl who has become a focal point for the machines of a different future who have sent other machines to take her out. The paradox is that this sounds all too familiar in many ways.
The problem is that T2 was such a seminal and original film in this regard that it is hard for anyone, even one of the originators to hold up to it. Granted the sequences feel bigger than some of the previous Terminator entries but not enough to make it original. This is not director Tim Miller’s fault. He tries his best to balance all the expectations and the film is effective but ends up at many of the same points. Schwarzenegger who has been present in all the films throughout has been given a slightly different angle but nothing that directly intensifies the stakes. Certain metaphors of current society do make their way in making for some unusual set pieces but ultimately it feels like a road traveled before however well made.
By Tim Wassberg