The Rhythm Section (15)

TRS_Quad_LDirector: Reed Morano

Starring: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown and Raza Jeffrey

Run time: 1h 49min

⭐⭐⭐⭐

After the death of her family in a plane accident, Steph (Lively) has hit rock bottom. Addicted to heroin and prostituting herself for her next fix, her life changes when she meets freelance journalist Bobby (Jeffrey). Claiming he has proof that the crash was in fact a terrorist act, Steph begins a journey of self-discovery and a change of career. She goes from call girl to Bond girl as she teams up with an ex-MI6 agent (Law) to acquire a very particular set of skills. As she begins her transformation from zero to hero, a tangled web of deceit and betrayal slowly unravels. Relationships are tested and loyalties questioned.

Mark Burnell’s screenplay, based on his own book, has the pacing of a novel with character development taking priority over action which might well cause one or two moments of restlessness, but when things start kicking off, it’s tense and dramatic with a frenzied car chase the highlight. Outstanding cinematography sees the camera swaying back and forth whilst never losing sight of what’s happening in an incredibly impressive single take. 

Lively brings a depth of humanity to her role (and a spot-on English accent), baulking as she gets up close and personal to her potential targets and making mistakes as she learns that killing isn’t as easy as she first thought. Jude Law flexes his considerable muscles as Steph’s mentor and although he doesn’t have a great deal to get his teeth into, what he does, he does with style and brutality. However, both characters are difficult to empathise with. Steph’s family are introduced, but only in non-verbal flashbacks making it hard to establish a connection.

Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, comparisons to their famous franchise are inevitable and there are familiar elements from many of their Bond films throughout. Whether it’s sunlight filtering through the blinds of a window or the vast scope of the rugged Scottish countryside appearing like an extra character, the spectre of previous 007 adventures is always lingering. 

A slow-burner that won’t be for everyone, The Rhythm Section explores the behind the scenes elements of modern espionage. Refreshingly character led and minus the glossy, stylised smoothness we’ve come to expect from the genre, it should be praised for this. If there is a sequel, hopefully the focus will remain on raw substance rather than be distracted by overblown style.

The Rhythm Section shoots into UK cinemas from January 31st