LONDON: One of the best things about the streaming landscape is the possibilities it offers to take stories that would feel rushed in a couple of hours and fully flesh them out in a way a movie never could — exploring backstories and character arcs with more detail, multiple perspectives, big twists and surprising reveals.
Sadly, it can also mean a story that would have been hard pushed to fill two hours can be stretched so thin as to lose all sense of momentum, purpose and coherence. Amazon’s new military thriller — “The Terminal List,” based on Jack Carr’s series of novels — would have made for a so-so movie (maybe), but instead we’re treated to a beleaguered Chris Pratt struggling to imbue Navy SEAL James Reece with enough depth to fill eight one-hour episodes. He never comes close.
Reece is the sole survivor of a botched covert mission, which leaves the rest of his squad dead. Shellshocked and reeling with guilt, he returns home to the USA, only to find himself the primary suspect in a series of shadowy events which aim to (literally) put him in the ground. Lit up with a burning desire for revenge, he puts his training to work, creating the titular list of those he holds accountable, and systematically crossing them off.
It might have worked better with a weekly release schedule — something akin to the ‘villain of the week’ format of old TV serials — but instead we get the whole, torturous show in one sitting. Where the character of Reese could have been a subtle examination of a traumatized special ops soldier, instead he descends into little more than a deranged psychopath.
While his motives may be ostensibly honorable, his means and methods are brutal and gratuitous. It’s hard to root for someone with no apparent redeeming qualities, no matter how much they’ve suffered. Or to get excited by clunky, exposition-heavy dialog that sounds like it was written in a “Call of Duty” chatroom.
Pratt looks as confused as the rest of us, unable to find any nuance in a character seemingly devoid of humanity. In any other show, Reece would be the bad guy — and with good reason.