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The Terminal List – Chris Pratt’s Navy SEAL Revenge Thriller is Predictable But Still Exciting

SERIES REVIEW – Chris Pratt plays a veteran soldier who’s been thoroughly screwed in this action series, but he won’t let up and is out for revenge.

 

 

If Amazon Prime Video had something of a brand identity, it could be the “daddy of TV shows”. With Reacher, Bosch and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the streaming service has invested heavily in a specific type of action series targeting middle-aged, suburban men. These are all bestselling thrillers about highly skilled men with military and/or law enforcement backgrounds willing to break the rules to pursue truth and justice. These series are not chasing Emmy awards, they just want to entertain with a twisty plot, some exciting action scenes and a mildly complex protagonist. They are also the three most popular and successful series on the service. Prime Video’s newest series, The Terminal List, perfectly fits this “pulp fiction in a military thriller” line. By the modest standards of the genre, The Terminal List is an overwhelming success. How good, however, is a little harder to measure.

 

 

When the conspiracy theory is right

 

The Terminal List follows Navy SEAL Lieutenant James Reece (Chris Pratt) as he tries to get to the bottom of a high level conspiracy that has caused a terrible trauma in his life. Reece led a mission gone wrong in Syria and ended up as the sole survivor.

When Navy investigators question him about what happened, their account – which they have audio recordings of – does not match his recollection of that day. Overall, he has memory problems, which doctors attribute to a concussion suffered during the mission. But he suspects that someone has targeted his platoon, and his suspicions are confirmed when he is attacked by masked assassins.

After a brutal, life-and-death struggle to defeat them, he enlists his old SEAL buddy Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch), now working for the CIA, and investigative journalist Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) to help him unravel the conspiracy and take revenge on those behind it. With each episode, she adds new names to the list of people connected to the conspiracy – and begins to gradually erase them.

 

 

Written by a real Navy SEAL veteran

 

The series is based on a novel by Jack Carr, a former Navy SEAL, and the production has tried to use as many veterans as possible. As a result, the portrayal of the military’s deadliest special operations unit feels distinctly authentic. The soldiers are all bearded and tattooed, which is realistic, even if the Department of Defense doesn’t like to admit it. For example, the SEALs’ penchant for battle axes is shown in one of the most brutal television scenes I’ve ever seen.

The series is a little too authentic at times, though; the military jargon in the first few episodes is as thick as if you were watching a foreign show without subtitles. Actually, it’s also distracting because you have to stop and think about it at times like this, then it can take you out of the moment. But the dialogue becomes more normal as the series progresses. And even if they’re sometimes hard to understand, they’re still pretty cool and they’re what makes the series believable.

 

 

One of Pratt’s best performances

 

Pratt’s performance is pretty strong in his career’s most serious lead role. This is Pratt’s third time playing a Marine; he previously played a SEAL in Zero Dark Thirty. This career-changing role came at a time when he was best known for playing the lovable, soft-bodied jester Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation and Owen Grady, a Navy veteran in the Jurassic World films. The Terminal List, however, shows that he can be quite versatile in this military role and quite versatile at that. Here, he doesn’t “go for it” and pushes his charisma to the limit as Reece does increasingly unsympathetic things in his quest for revenge.

To the series’ credit, it doesn’t shy away at all from the fact that SEALs are not good guys. They’re not evil per se – they love their families and each other and protecting America from the enemy and all that – but they are stone-cold killers. “It would be a mistake to drive a man to violence when violence is what he’s dedicated his life to perfecting,” says Reece to Tony Liddell (JD Pardo), the FBI agent on his trail, warning him. Reece is as anti-hero as an anti-hero can get, complex enough to remain compelling throughout the season. His deteriorating mental state throughout the series allows him to justify extreme brutality as part of his mission. And this brutality leads to some excellent action sequences. The visuals are stunning and the fighting is visceral.

 

 

Highly predictable

 

The Terminal List starts as a paranoid conspiracy thriller where Reece is unsure if what is happening is real. By the end of Part 2, however, it becomes a much more straightforward revenge thriller with “conspiracy thriller elements in its trail”. Unfortunately, convincing action seems to have been favoured over the story.

But the conspiracy plot is more interesting because you can’t get that much out of a revenge thriller in one series. Such films have been pretty much the same since about the time of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish because they’re just about someone tracking down and killing the people who hurt him. Unfortunately, the conspiracy plot of The Terminal List is never surprising. It unfolds with the routine inevitability of a revenge plot. You’ll watch to see how the conspiracy unravels because you predict everything that happens. It’s an unusually revenge-driven story. Reece questions many things, but the effectiveness of revenge is not one of them.

The story doesn’t treat the female characters too cleverly either. Constance Wu’s character of investigative journalist Kate Buranek starts by sitting at a bar and ordering a whiskey, which is the usual, now somewhat tiresome “tough chick” cliché. Wu’s talent is demonstrated by her ability to make Buranek a convincing character after that. And Riley Keough’s role as Reece’s wife, Laurent, is so thankless and minimal that I wonder why Keough took it on at all. To say more about her would be a spoiler, but anyone familiar with action movie clichés will guess what happens to her very soon. Jeanne Tripplehorn was previously seen as a constantly tense but very self-conscious psychologist in Basic Instinct. She plays a somewhat similar character here as Lorraine Hartley, the Minister of Defence. Overall, she adds to the quality of the film.

 

 

There are many things ticked off this list

 

Ultimately, the flaws in The Terminal List do not overwhelm what is good about it. I was disturbed by some creative choices (Why is everything so dark? Don’t the admirals turn on the lights?), but not so much that it affected my enjoyment of the action, performances or pacing.

The worst The Terminal List could have done is move slowly, but fortunately, it keeps the pace up enough to keep it entertaining from the first shot to the last. It’s more like a traditional episodic TV series than the movie star-led series usually are (and Jack Carr had written plenty of other James Reece novels if Amazon wants to continue the series). It’s real popcorn entertainment sprinkled with a bit of seriousness. Sometimes that’s all a father needs.

-BadSector-

SERIES REVIEW - Chris Pratt plays a veteran soldier who's been thoroughly screwed in this action series, but he won't let up and is out for revenge.     If Amazon Prime Video had something of a brand identity, it could be the "daddy of TV shows". With Reacher, Bosch and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, the streaming service has invested heavily in a specific type of action series targeting middle-aged, suburban men. These are all bestselling thrillers about highly skilled men with military and/or law enforcement backgrounds willing to break the rules to pursue truth and justice. These series are…
The Terminal List is a fairly traditional conspiracy-themed and revenge-driven military thriller that, while clichéd and predictable, still stands out among similar series and films with its authentic portrayal of SEAL culture, exciting action sequences, and great performances and dialogue.

The Terminal List

Direction - 7.2
Actors - 7.4
Story - 6.6
Visuels/Action - 7.6
Ambience - 7.2

7.2

GOOD

The Terminal List is a fairly traditional conspiracy-themed and revenge-driven military thriller that, while clichéd and predictable, still stands out among similar series and films with its authentic portrayal of SEAL culture, exciting action sequences, and great performances and dialogue.

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