Chris Pratt's hyped series based on Jack Carr's popular action thriller has been released and we've got some thoughts.
Jack Carr's popular books about Navy Seal commander James Reece are very reminiscent of, say, Jack Reacher or Jack Ryan, in which a highly trained individual pounds his way through hordes of enemies while maintaining a blameless moral attitude to life, war, loyalty and sacrifice, and much of this is so typically goofy American and stuffed with clichés that it more often than I think is reasonable comes across as pure nonsense. Still, it sells like hotcakes and when Training Day director Antoine Fuqua and Tomorrow War star Chris Pratt were looking for the right book to turn into an action thriller series, Carr's books were at the top of the wish list. Now it's out, on Amazon Prime, and I've watched all eight episodes, and after just over six hours of a pulled-together Pratt in a shaggy hobo beard, I'm ready to hand out the ratings.
Lt. Commander James Reece and his platoon of Seal Team 7 operators find themselves in a predicament to say the least in the opening of the first episode when misinformation from an unreliable source puts the entire platoon in danger during a mission in Syria. 12 men die on the spot while Reece and colleague Boozer manage to make it out alive, and it's after they both reach home soil that The Terminal List and its story really kicks into high gear. Early on, it turns out that something doesn't quite add up with either the information given prior to the mission, how it was summarised in various reports, or how Reece's commanding officers act after the funerals. Pratt's hard-skinned combat operative senses trouble and begins to dig into what quickly turns out to be a conspiracy that stretches all the way to the White House.
The story of The Terminal List is paper-thin. Leaf thin. Like baking paper, sort of. The conspiracy itself feels like it was written on a napkin during a lunch break, and there's a lack of nuance, depth and realism here in a premise that often feels like a really bad episode of NCIS. Characters are mostly reminiscent of rambling clichés, the dialogue is like something out of a Key & Peele parody and the way Pratt's character mashes his way along, without either conscience or remorse, clearly gives off strong Jack Reacher vibes. It's not good, plain and simple - and what little action there is is drawn out and embroidered to last for six hours. This series should have been a feature film instead. Two hours, darker and less overtly TV series-like, and with characters with depth and believable logic.
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That said, it's hard to get away from how cleverly put together the action parts themselves often are. Pratt's penchant for military action is something he's been talking about since his Zero Dark Thirty outing. He moves very well, he shoots very well, and unlike 90% of everything in the soldier/war way that is done in Hollywood, it looks real, like the people shooting are actually trained soldiers rather than actors who have been taught how to hold an AR15 the morning before shooting. Pratt has clockwork body control, near flawless gun handling and the way he brings his service SIG to his body as he walks around corners in narrow corridors and the way he shifts shoulders with his AR15 as he climbs a staircase that winds its way upwards, impresses me. I like it. I'm unabashedly partial to this kind of interior military action, and when things heat up in The Terminal List, I truly believe Pratt is a Seal Team 7 operative, and nothing more.
It's a shame he can't quite carry the dialogue scenes, though. Because with good action and a strong Pratt in the more "poignant" moments, I could easily forgive the story feeling like it was borrowed from the back of a cereal box. Pratt is perfect in the role of Star-Lord as his hilarious light comedy is allowed to shine through and as he lifts an otherwise stoic comic book genre to new levels. Here he tries to play tight, restrained, and his "tormented", dark figure unfortunately never really feels believable. Pratt's range is lacking and his presence is fleetingly weak in the more "dramatic" key scenes, which is a shame. In the end, The Terminal List is one long stereotypical shrug whose continuation will most likely remind you immediately of the long-running NCIS.