The Terminal List

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Chris Pratt in The Terminal List.
Chris Pratt in The Terminal List.
Photo: Amazon Studios/Arpi Ketendjian

SHOW:

The Terminal List

WHERE TO WATCH:

Amazon Prime Video

OUR RATING:

3/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

James Reece returns home after his entire platoon of Navy SEALs is ambushed, only to discover new dark forces working against him and endangering the ones he loves.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

The Terminal List is not something I would usually watch, but it wasn't that bad if a brutally violent and deadly serious military drama/revenge thriller is what you're into.

The Prime Video series is based on the novel by Jack Carr, a former Navy SEAL, and follows James Reece (Chris Pratt), whose entire platoon of Navy SEALs is ambushed during a high-stakes covert mission. Reece returns home to his family with conflicting memories of the event and questions about his culpability. However, as new evidence comes to light, Reece discovers dark forces working against him, endangering his life and the lives of those he loves.

The action opens with a covert mission gone horribly wrong, during which an ambush turns into a 15-minute bloodbath. There's yelling, grunts, fire, blood, night-vision-type contraptions, and neon-orange lines shooting from machine guns in all directions. And when the episode ends, a loud ringing still lingers in your ears from multiple explosions carefully laid out and successfully set off, leaving death in its wake.

Pratt's acting journey has gone from goofy Andy Dwyer in Parks and Rec to dinosaur behaviour expert Owen Grady in Jurassic World. And let's not forget his 'likeable' turn as Peter Quill/Star-Lord in the MCU. So, I guess he has earned the right to play whichever role he takes an interest in, and this time it's the type of guy who recognises a hitman just by his wraparound shades and says things like, "I'm not going to tell you again, stay off my list." Sadly, he's not exactly believable as a robust, silent killing machine.

Taylor Kitsch plays Ben, a good-natured bad-influence buddy we know is like a brother to Reece because he always repeats it. That said, Kitsch is an underrated actor, and I can't help but think what the show would have been like (better, probably) had he and Pratt switched parts. Constance Wu plays Katie, a war journalist who only cares about the truth. Perhaps being a journalist myself makes me biased; I enjoyed her in this role – it's a far cry from her run as Jessica Huang in Fresh Off the Boat or the lead performance that transformed her from a sitcom actor to a movie star, Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians.

The biggest surprise and the one actor I couldn't take seriously was Sean Gunn, aka Kirk from Gilmore Girls, who plays a slimy corporate executive who ends up on Reece's hit list. Then we have Elvis Presley's granddaughter, Riley Keough, who happens to be quite a versatile actor stuck playing Reece's blandly supportive military wife, Lauren.

The script from showrunner David DiGilio is, perhaps, the weakest element of this show. Simply put, this is a show written for all the middle-aged dads out there. It screams masculinity, showing off guys with muscles who call each other "brother," refer to teammates as "my boys," and discuss objectives using terms like "this motherfucker is ours".

I won't deny that there is a profoundly human story amid all the action. Reece deals with memory confusion, untrustworthy flashbacks, general fuzziness, and headaches. But the fragility and vulnerability you would expect in this part of the storytelling just aren't there. The hints of sadness that briefly emerge also quickly disappear because when it comes down to it, the show is really about the procedure of hunting down and getting revenge.

The standard flavour profiles of an All-American show are all here: patriotism, heroism, duty, fellowship, shirtless knife-and-gun fights. And while the show does get more complicated, it never gets any more compelling. Complicated is the key word here. I often felt lost in what was going on or what the people on the screen were talking about.

The strongest part of this show is the way it was filmed, well, sort of. The attention to detail is perfection – from energetic chases to heated moments of fear and gut-wrenching shootouts. At one point, Reece is on a pursuit while being chased by Seals in what could easily be the wild – the terrain is rough, and his lack of resources, struggle for survival and desperation are felt. A newly coined technique called CineVision is to thank for that. Working with director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Training Day) and DiGilio, Pratt took care in shooting this series as if it were an eight-hour film. This, again, produces brilliant quality, but because the themes are deadly serious all the time, it makes for a draining TV experience.

The Terminal List has a thrilling enough plot and is something new for the Prime Video algorithm to recommend.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

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