“Section 8” follows the old-school plot where an ex-soldier is hired by an undercover agency that claims to be working for the government and gives him targets to eliminate. There isn’t much to think about as far as the plot is concerned, as everything is spread out on a plate in front of the viewer. Revenge drives the motive, and our protagonist emerges as a humanitarian. Other than that, the film is an excellent example of how to misuse Scott Adkins’ talents. But that’s not what we are going to discuss here. We shall discuss our protagonist, Jake Atherton, and try to assess the events in the film.
‘Section 8’ Summary
Jake Atherton is a former Special Forces member who now works at a car shop run by his uncle Earl in Riverside, CA. One day, when a group of thugs arrives at the shop asking for their cut, Jake beats them up, except for the head of the gang, Fresh, who gives him a warning. When he returns home that night, he sees Fresh driving off in his car. He rushes in only to find his wife and son dead. In rage and pain, he decides to look for Fresh, who he finds at a neighborhood bar. Jake shoots Fresh and goes to jail.
Five months later, Jake’s chief in the army, Tom Mason, comes to meet him in prison. Tom tries to sympathize, but Jake doesn’t need it. He believes what he did was right. Later on, a guy named Sam Ramsey meets him and asks him to join “Section 8,” a task force. Jake declines straightaway. He is then abducted from prison and brought to Ramsey at a different location, where Ramsey manages to persuade Jake to join his secret task force, i.e., “Section 8.” They have been sanctioned to eliminate any threat and contain situations that might present a threat to national security. He passes his training and is able to eliminate his first target, Alejandro Castillo, a defense contractor who has been selling weapons on the black market. However, he lets two women live—something that Ramsey isn’t happy about as it could compromise the whole mission. But he decides to let it go the first time. Jake’s second target is Senator Jim Graham. Jake does manage to have him at gunpoint, but when Graham mentions his family (wife and son), Jake isn’t able to pull the trigger. However, Ajax, another member of the force, kills Graham. Jake comes under Ramsey’s scrutiny, and he decides to eliminate Jake.
After Jake escapes an attack on him at his house, he goes to meet his chief, Tom Mason. Tom tells Jake that “Section 8” was dismantled in the 90s. This means that Ramsey’s “Section 8” is a hoax. It is a cover for Ramsey to carry out missions for his own purpose, and his team consists of the most disgraced CIA and FBI operatives. Jake then decides to turn the tables.
Ramsey contacts one of his special agents, Locke, to kill Jake. Jake, on the other hand, is back in his hometown, Riverside. Locke has already arrived in Riverside too. He tracks Jake down but misses, and Jake manages to escape. He goes to Earl’s shop, probably the safest place for him. But not for long, as Ramsey’s team arrives there and attacks them. Liza, another of Ramsey’s agents, helps Jake to make an escape. Liza and Jake had earlier shared a few drinks, and Jake had told her about his family. So, Jake had found a friend in her. She and Jake then leave for Montana in a car that Earl provides them with. Montana is where Ramsey is.
Upon reaching Montana, Liza turns on Jake. He is captured and brought to Ramsey. At Ramsey’s station, Ramsey tells Jake that he was the one who had paid to kill Jake’s family. Jake is also taken aback to see his chief, Tom, and realizes that it was he who had helped Ramsey get Jake into “Section 8.” It is only after some time Tom returns to the room where Jake is kept discreetly. He tells Jake that he has been contracted by the government to bring down “Section 8.” They decide to put an end to Ramsey and his “Section 8” once and for all. In the gunfight that follows, Tom is killed, and Ramsey manages to escape in his car. Jake follows him and catches up with him. Ramsey is shot in the chest three times by Jake. He doesn’t hesitate this time.
Later on, we see people from the US government, along with US Attorney General Martin Savoy, arrive in Montana, where they offer Jake another job to help them bring down the many others like Ramsey all around the globe. But Jake has nothing left to fight for. If he considers the offer, he will be given a card by Savoy. Jake Atherton enters his home only to be intercepted by Locke, who has been waiting for him. Even though his employer, Ramsey, is dead, he has to complete the task given to him. A gruesome fight follows, with Locke getting the better of Jake. But in the end, Jake manages to get hold of Locke’s gun and shoots him. Jake decides to leave his hometown. He wishes his uncle Earl goodbye and gets on the bus. Staring at a mother and son inside the bus, a decision dawn on him. He calls Savoy and tells him, “I’ve found something to fight for.” Savoy welcomes Jake to Section 9.
Violence Breeds Violence
“Section 8” tries to balance the proceedings of “Section 8” and Jake’s military history. We don’t see this in the film, but there is an invisible connection that somewhere makes Jake say yes to Ramsey’s offer. One has to agree with the fact that although Jake was abducted from prison, he wasn’t forced to take up his assignment. Ramsey rather tapped into Jake’s vengeful, as well as emotional, side that had led Jake to kill Fresh without even thinking twice. This stresses his military history, where he was the bravest among his troupe (we see this at the beginning of the film when he, of all, disarms the explosive.) It is also his rage at all the criminals who roam the streets and should be behind bars (as he tells Tom) that makes him accept Ramsay’s offer.
It can also be said that Jake, after having lost his family, was looking for a reason to live. It was Ramsay who gave him that. He took out all his targets on the first mission (disregarding the women). It is only on the second mission that he is unable to shoot the senator because his words provoke Jake to think about himself and his life without his family. He doesn’t feel sorry for the senator but for the senator’s family and thus for his own. He thus gets lost in himself and delays in pulling the trigger.
At one point, Liza tells Jake that they are what they have been ordered to be. This means that “Section 8” has no place for conscience. After the death of Jake’s wife and son, we also feel that Jake has lost his ability to feel. But herein lies the question: does this absence of feeling in him take birth after he loses his family? Or was the absence always there (him being in the army), and it was his family life that was able to counteract the absence with an equal amount of affection? What makes this question further viable is that at the end of the film, when Jake is leaving Riverside on a bus, he sees a mother and her little son and makes up his mind to join Section 9. It is the affection Jake feels here that plays the role of a catalyst and makes him change his mind, and he decides to fight. But the fight isn’t for himself anymore. It is for the innocent people who risk falling prey to the culprits of society.
‘Section 8’ Ending: Does Jake Get His Revenge?
In a word, yes. Jake does get his revenge by killing Ramsey. But it is not about getting revenge as much as it is about making peace with oneself. Throughout the film, Jake, by killing his targets, tries to compensate himself for letting his family die. But when he finds out that the man, he is working for is the one who got his family killed, his belief system is affected. And it is not after killing Ramsay but after watching the mother and her little son on the bus that Jake finally comes face-to-face with himself and accepts the truth. He then decides that he may have lost his family, but he will do his bit and make sure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else.