Review: 'The Terminal List' keeps you guessing and manages to touch a raw nerve

The new TV series premieres July 1.

July 01, 2022, 4:10 AM

If you don’t look too closely at the vigilante cliches invading this slick, souped-up military revenge thriller, then "The Terminal List," an eight-hour series getting an Independence weekend kickoff, should satisfy your jones for action.

Fans of "Reacher" and "Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan," both hits on Amazon Prime, will be eager to stream it.

Based on the 2018 bestseller by former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, the series stars a dead-serious Chris Pratt as lieutenant commander James Reece, a Navy SEAL who leads his platoon into an ambush in Syria that kills everyone but Reece, the protagonist of four other Carr novels.

"I have 12 men flying home in caskets right now," seethes the commander. "This is personal."

You bet it is. A concussion has blurred Reece’s memory of that day, but when he’s attacked by masked killers he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications.

Before long, baddies will invade the San Diego home Reece shares with wife Lauren (Riley Keough, Elvis Presley's talented granddaughter) and their adorable child Lucy (Arlo Mertz).

PHOTO: Chris Pratt (James Reece) and Riley Keough (Lauren Reece) appear in Amazon Studios' "The Terminal List".
Chris Pratt (James Reece) and Riley Keough (Lauren Reece) appear in Amazon Studios' "The Terminal List".
Prime Video

That’s when things intensify, turning Reece into a killing machine that Pratt’s father-in-law -- the "Terminator" himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- might have played 30 years ago. With "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua igniting the pilot episode, Reece systematically goes ballistic on those who’ve done him, his family, his soldier brothers and America wrong.

Pratt makes you believe Reece can complete his mission impossible even when he’s labeled a domestic terrorist and forced to go on the run. Once the sitcom star of "Park and Recreation," Pratt has reshaped himself into a straight-up hardbody (see him in "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Jurassic World").

Sadly MIA is the humor and heart we’ve come to expect from Pratt. The few laughs that exist are unintentional, rising out of head-scratching plot contrivances. Often as ridiculous as it is riveting, "The Terminal List" tightens suspense while logic tumbles through the cracks along with character development and any in-depth probing of trauma.

Of course it’s impossible to live in our current world without seeing the abuses of power that go all the way to the top, so "The Terminal List" still manages to touch a raw nerve. And Pratt has a skilled cast of actors in his corner to help him jump those storyline hurdles.

PHOTO: Chris Pratt appears as James Reece in Amazon Studios' "The Terminal List".
Chris Pratt appears as James Reece in Amazon Studios' "The Terminal List".
Prime Video

Taylor Kitsch of "Friday Night Lights" excels as Reece’s SEAL buddy Ben Edwards, now working dark ops for the CIA. It’s also great having "Crazy Rich Asians" star Constance Wu around as Kate Buranek, an investigative reporter who sees Reece’s side of things when he takes his case to Defense- Secretary Lorraine Hartley (Jeanne Tripplehorn).

Is Reece a righteous hero or a broken man knocked sideways by PTSD and memory lapses that send him spiraling into violent confusion about alleged government medical experiments and coverups? Like any paranoid thriller worth its salt, "The Terminal List" keeps you guessing. Too bad it’s a solid two-hour movie trapped in eight hours of bloat.

The thinking seems to be: throw dozens of subplots at the audience and hope they’ll stick. A few of them do. The frustration comes from the feeling that this gung-ho TV series, created as Fourth of July fireworks for dads everywhere, could have been so much more.

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