The last time a military thriller was adapted so well into a series was 'The Night Manager' by John le Carré, starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddlestone. Tom Clancy has had a chokehold on the genre for a decade now and Jack Carr is specifically equipped to dethrone anyone that aims to portray military realism in fiction.
Based on a critically acclaimed novel by Jack Carr, a former Navy SEAL sniper turned author, 'The Terminal List' stars Chris Pratt as Commander James Reece, the head of a Navy SEAL team, who finds himself embroiled in a bizarre conspiracy after his entire team is killed during a mission to eliminate a dangerous terrorist.
Thrillers in this vein tend to be very laissez-faire about the plot details, as they are just window dressing to fill the time between action sequences. IPs such as Jack Reacher and Jack Ryan are immensely guilty of this and fail to get the depth of their characters across, other than them being a hyper-masculine, one-man-army, killing machines.
One of the most harrowing sequences in the series is when the protagonist barely escapes by surviving a steep fall from the side of the cliff. Since the action in the series is grounded so well every triumph for Chris Pratt's character feels visceral.
The showrunners have put in a lot of time and effort into the accurate portrayal of survivalist, combat and bureaucratic aspects of the American industrial military complex. A lot of the background actors, stunt performers, consultants and co-ordinators were actual Navy SEALs. This results in the action sequences having a methodical and surgical feeling towards them rather than a bombastic visual cornucopia of bullets and explosions.
James Reece never feels like a mythical protagonist like 'John Wick', he always comes across as a very prepared and precise man that is succeeding in his quest for revenge due to his training and willpower.
In fact, a lot of the series explores the human cost of being such a highly capable and ruthlessly expendable soldier, especially the impacts it has on one's family and psyche. The psychological aspect is given a lot of screen time via exposition of the protagonist's dreams, medical assessments of battlefield injuries and flashbacks of BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL) 'Hell Week' training. The last of which does not bog itself down with glorifying the physicality of the SEAL's trainees, but rather painfully evinces the sheer cognitive and emotional load an operator has to withstand to graduate from one of the toughest military schools on the planet.
The pacing of the series is very well done and rarely stagnates or falls into a rote rhythm of acquiring a target and then executing said target. Unsurprisingly, the series revolves around a list of people that Commander Reece has to discover and kill to avenge the collateral inflicted on the sailor by his own government. Insights into real-world tradecraft, tactics and SOPs of war keep the viewing experience fresh and engaging.
Even though the story is Jack Carr's debut, he handles a very straightforward story with subversive aplomb. Villains are set up and subverted in a fast yet believable manner and no antagonist comes off as pure, two-dimensional, evil.
The action in the R-rated series sets the new standard for shootouts and portrayal of military tactics, never before has modern day combat scenarios been presented with such choreographed and researched set pieces.
Chris Pratt along with his fellow cast members Taylor Kitsch and Tyner Rushing, sell the mid gunfight camaraderie very well and make the audience feel like they are watching an actual military operation go down. This is where the series sets itself apart from the rest. Every dramatic set piece and action sequence is shown with a very intimate and steady-cam lens and runs the gamut of what SEALs are capable of, without pithy expository dialogue.
In one particular episode, the Commander is being chased by people whom he does not want to hurt. There is not even one line of dialogue dedicated to how 'badass' the protagonist is. It is just implied that if James Reece makes it to a body of water he will become untraceable.
It's the small details like this that make this work of fiction feel so real and binge worthy to dive into the world of special forces. There are a lot of mixed reviews regarding The Terminal List, mostly due Chris Pratt's perception by the hypervocal liberal Hollywood media. Opinions should be formed after watching the pilot episode and Jack Carr's writing definitely deserves a platform so it can continue to be an exemplar of what good action thrillers are actually supposed to be like.