The Terminal List begins with a secret mission in Syria conducted under the direction of the protagonist. Action expert Antoine Fuqua (“The Equalizer”), who directed the opening episode, manages to capture the tension of the soldiers commanded by Reece as they enter a water-filled tunnel system and walk straight into an ambush. The panic and disorientation that erupts as a result is transferred to the viewer, who almost has the feeling of being right in the middle instead of just being there.
Already here James is plagued by strange dropouts. Nevertheless, he manages to escape with a comrade, while the other members of his platoon lose their lives.
As if the terrible experiences weren’t bad enough, new nasty surprises await him at home. His perception seems clouded. Memories and hallucinations mix. He is confronted by the authorities with audio material of his own statements, which he cannot remember. His only fellow returnee is said to have committed suicide. And what’s more, Reece thinks he’s being followed.
Is it all just a result of the craniocerebral trauma during the operation that went wrong? Or is there more to it than that? His wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and daughter Lucy (Arlo Mertz) are concerned – although James assures them that everything is fine.
An unreliable protagonist with plenty of combat experience who faces yet another setback at the end of the opening episode, soon realizes she’s part of a grand conspiracy, and then decides to launch an all-out attack – that would make an exciting anchor for a twisted, morally ambivalent thriller series can give.
“The Terminal List” positions Reece more as a dull vigilante, as embodied by Sylvester Stallone in the unspeakably bad, 2019 released “Rambo: Last Blood”. Certainly, the makers around creator David DiGilio (“Strange Angel”) do not pull off a pure action show. Again and again there are moments that make the fragile condition of the former soldier tangible. However, many of these scenes only serve to justify his ruthless campaign against all those involved in the intrigue that leads to the highest levels of government and business.
James becomes a killer, does horrible things. Somehow it’s all understandable and okay, the series keeps calling out to you. Even exaggeratedly drastic excesses of violence, of which fortunately not too many appear in the first four episodes, are sold as a necessary evil in the fight for a good cause. The story leaves the ground of credibility at the latest when Reece suffers another bad health blow.
Conveniently, he is mostly spared from violent fits during the moments when he sets his sights on his victims. And besides, it is more than amazing how firmly his friends and acquaintances stand by his side. At one point, ex-military buddy Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch) points out that James’ condition is actually intolerable. However, doubts are quickly pushed aside. The vengeance must go on. And James wants to face those responsible for his fate himself.
From time to time you notice that those responsible are aware of the problematic drawing of their protagonist. However, situations that question his actions often pass quickly. The journalist Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) could serve as a corrective. On the one hand, she remains a bit too pale at first, receives a lot of important information about other people from the off. On the other hand, when she meets Reece for the first time, she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to shake his image as an upright soldier, but wants to take a close look at the entanglements in the system. So it remains to be seen whether her well-meaning attitude towards Reece will change decisively in the second half of the series.
The fact that the criticism of James’ zero-tolerance appearance in the series is only cosmetic is also due to some strange religious undertones. Starting with Pratt’s opening voiceover about the Old Testament judge Gideon, “The Terminal List” allows for several allusions that seem to have one goal in particular: to portray the broken ex-elite fighter as a kind of martyr. Which once again sanctions his killing spree.
The following should also be noted in this context: The star himself, whose allegedly conservative views have repeatedly caused discussions recently, especially on social networks, constantly provides those who eye him with suspicion with his new, prominent weapons advancing Amazon Prime series plenty of arguments. In any case, Pratt cannot free himself from the dubious agenda, as he is also listed as one of the executive producers.
The dubious content-related aspects could perhaps be gotten over a little more easily if “The Terminal List – The Shooting List” at least knew how to captivate throughout. However, there are no real action and suspense highlights. You shouldn’t expect more than routine and under-complex black-and-white constructions. It’s really a shame, especially since the subject of soldiers returning home traumatized from wartime operations and feeling left alone is as explosive as it is interesting.
This text is based on viewing the first four of a total of eight episodes of the series “The Terminal List”.
My rating: 2/5
The Terminal List series will be released on Amazon Prime Video on July 1st.