August 14, 2022
The Terminal List (Prime Video) Review

“Chris Pratt’s The Terminal List is a bombastic thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. It’s big on action, low on flaws, and oozing with intensity,” says Phil Roberts in his review

The action-thriller genre has been done to death in recent years. Reacher delivered an intensely enjoyable series, while the second season of Jack Ryan paled in comparison to its predecessor. But after Without Remorse practically ignored its source material and delivered an underwhelming letdown, one would be forgiven for thinking it was time to let sleeping dogs lie. But now, Prime Video is back with an adaptation of The Terminal List.

Based on the best-selling novel by Jack Carr, the series stars Chris Pratt as James Reece. A highly decorated Navy Seal commander suffering from a crippling psychological disorder. But given the intensity of its source material, can Pratt finally deliver a serious performance worthy of the novel? Or will The Terminal List become another forgettable formulaic thriller that fails to live up to the hype?

The Terminal List

Fear not Pratt fans because The Terminal List is a bombastic thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. If you were expecting another scathing review of a cheap knock-off look away now. That won’t be happening here. Instead, allow me to wax lyrical about a thrilling series that serves as a perfect vehicle to help Pratt transcend into a truly outstanding and serious leading man. Forget the smirking, wise-cracking, and larger-than-life action hero. Instead, Pratt delivers a poignant and harrowingly tortured performance that deals with the severity of mental health. All the while whisking us away on an adventure big on action, low on flaws, and oozing with intensity.

SEAL SLAUGHTER

The plot of The Terminal List centers on James Reece (Pratt). After a high-stakes operation behind enemy lines goes horribly wrong, Reece’s entire platoon of twelve Navy Seals is slaughtered in an ambush. It’s an intense opening sequence. One that harnesses the best of Michael Bay’s stellar actioner The Rock and sprinkles it with a layer of intensity I was not expecting. The pilot episode benefits from the directorial vision of Antoine Fuqua, and it shows. The impressively executed tunnel gunfight is intense, gritty, and unrelenting. And by the time the dust settles, we truly feel like we’ve been through the conflict.

Still reeling from the explosive start, Reece returns to the United States where his superiors summon him for a debrief. And it is here where the series takes a darker turn. After listening in to the transmission logs, Reece is convinced that some of the events aren’t a true reflection of what went down. Even debating the legitimacy of his own voice recordings. This is glossed over and attributed to PTSD. But the fact remains that Reece’s memories of the events don’t correlate to what the mission logs suggest.

Chris Pratt in The Terminal List

REALITY VS CONSPIRACY THEORY

From here, we follow Reece as he begins to doubt his own memories. All the while his family and friends urge him to seek help and submit himself for testing to rule out any potential head trauma. But convinced there is a setup in play, he soon finds a trail of breadcrumbs that may suggest an overly-elaborate cover-up facilitated by his own Government. But as his memories of the events grow even vaguer, Reece is left to ponder the notion that his mind isn’t the usual source of reliable information it once was.

 CHARACTERS

After the intense and often shocking opening, Fuqua gets to work introducing us to the characters that will take the adventure forwards. We are introduced to Reece’s wife (Riley Keough), daughter, and best friend Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch). The latter of which is a former SEAL. After dissecting his account of events, and despite a few niggling doubts of his own; Edwards agrees to use the Government’s resources to explore Reece’s suspicions. And soon, the duo begins to build an elaborate conspiracy theory based on Reece’s interpretations. It’s harrowing stuff. And soon, the duo discovers that the cover-up is real and everyone they care about is in grave danger.

Chris Pratt and Taylor Kitsch in The Terminal List

Seen from the perspective of Reece’s jumbled mind, Fuqua frames the opening episode as one man’s quest to overcome a crippling psychological condition. One that is packed to the brim with heartwrenching moments that will have viewers rooting for their tortured hero. And that is due to the mesmerizing career-best performance from Chris Pratt.

PRATT

Leading the line for this series was always going to be a challenge for any actor. But Pratt manages it effortlessly and slips into Reece’s shoes to deliver a truly wonderful performance. As the story unfolds and Reece wrestles with his deepening psychological afflictions, Pratt’s performance becomes more layered. And it is a joy to behold. Gone are the cocky mannerisms of Guardians Of The Galaxy, replaced by a hardened and tortured performance of a broken soldier struggling to come to terms with his experiences. And within minutes of the opening sequence, his traditional mannerisms melt away and render down into a grounded, and often broken performance worthy of acclaim.

Chris Pratt in The Terminal List

Taylor Kitsch turns in a notable performance as Ben Edwards. Although his screen time is somewhat limited when compared to Pratt. But his compelling performance serves as the perfect counterpoint to Pratt’s broken warrior and would have been a great leading man in his own right. Constance Wu serves up an energetic performance as Katie Buranek whose role becomes vital as the series progresses. And finally. Jai Courtney dusts himself off from his underwhelming runout in The Suicide Squad to deliver a great baddie as the slimy Steven Horn. But make no mistake. This is Chris Pratt’s show and I cannot wait to see him push on to bigger and better things after this.

Jai Courtney in Prime Video's The Terminal List

STYLIZATION

As with most political thrillers, The Terminal List looks aesthetically stunning. Set against the backdrop of the military installation at Coronado, the series basks in the glorious Californian sunshine. But its effects are somewhat diminished by the harrowing events at play. Even the Californian suburbs look gloomier as the series unfolds. And the poignant and melancholic score from Ruth Barrett reflects the tone as the intensity gets dialed to eleven.

However, as is always the case, The Terminal List is not without its flaws. Though thankfully, they are few. That being said, after the first few scintillating episodes, the series settles down and adopts a formulaic approach to the conspiracy theory story. Aside from the deepening and agonizing psychological trauma angle, the plot tends to follow the tried and tested paint-by-numbers formula. And sadly, it fails to break free from the stereotypes of the genre. But these are minor quibbles with what is otherwise a thoroughly gripping and enjoyable series.

Taylor Kitsch in The Terminal List

VERDICT

With author Jack Carr serving as an executive producer, The Terminal List has everything going for it. Fuqua’s duties on The Equalizer and Training Day made him the perfect director to oversee the pilot episode. And it has paid dividends. The premiere serves to grab the viewer by the balls and thrust us hip-deep into the warzone. And we truly feel like we’ve been through an ordeal by the time the credits roll. And that can only be attributed to a well-oiled team of creatives at the top of their game.

David DiGilio’s adaptation of Carr’s novel plays to its strengths and delivers a gritty and intense experience. And with almost every episode hitting the hour mark, the show has plenty of room to flesh out its characters and ensure we are well and truly invested in their struggles. And this is to the show’s credit. The series never outstays its welcome and every episode leaves us wanting more. Which is the hallmark of a great series. And when coupled with a career-best performance from Chris Pratt, The Terminal List is an absolute triumph.

Chris Pratt in Prime Video's The Terminal List

In a time when political thrillers have become the norm, it’s great to see Jack Carr’s gripping novel come to life in such vivid detail. The mental health aspects are heartbreaking and keep the series grounded. But with a landmark performance from Chris Pratt and a welcome boost of energy from the Antonine Fuqua, The Terminal List delivers in a big way!

 

The Terminal List is streaming on Prime Video from July 1.

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