'The Terminal List' review: Chris Pratt leads pedestrian Amazon drama
Everything about The Terminal List, which comes to Prime Video from 1 July, implies that some turds are simply not worth polishing.
It does possess high-end production values, slick editing and some macho posturing which promise audiences a cracking action thriller, with Marvel mainstay Chris Pratt (James Reece) leading a Black-ops commando squad of highly trained soldiers into enemy territory. Unfortunately, what quickly becomes apparent is how much time, talent and money is wasted on screen in the execution of this futile exercise.
For the sake of sanity this Prime Video original should be avoided. It not only brings nothing new to an already overcrowded arena, but blatantly does a disservice to the actors who signed up.
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As this turgid adaptation by David DiGilio from Jack Carr's novel, proves to be less diverting than poorly made pay-per-view pornography.
With its wilful adherence to formula The Terminal List is so pedestrian, that even their initial incursion feels like a chore. A pretentious voice over from Pratt quoting the Bible may try to add gravitas, but this feels pointless since the squad are afforded only three minutes of screen time prior to their fatal firefight. James (Chris Pratt) and Ernest ‘Boozer’ Vickers (Jared Shaw) are both left with concussions amid the carnage, after a hailstorm of small arms fire cuts the rest to ribbons.
This may be executive produced by both Chris Pratt and revered film maker Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), but a lack of subtlety means every move can be guessed way ahead of time. Once James lands back on American soil, flashbacks to the failed mission combine with cringeworthy dream sequences, where his wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and Lucy (Arlo Mertz) are offered token screen time.
As James sits in his chair playing a guitar while the family profess their love for him, it comes off as manipulative and emotionally redundant.
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Very few actors apart from Pratt are afforded the opportunity to move beyond their stereotypes, while he even struggles to give James more than a modicum of emotional range. Potentially, only brother-in-law Ben (Taylor Kitsch) comes away with any degree of detail in terms of depth: he's both counsellor, confidant and enabler when James decides to mete out some old school revenge.
However, beyond the profusion of tattoos and sense of detached bohemian chic, which inherently makes Ben the coolest character here, nobody else is given room to breathe.
With 9 writers, 8 episodes and 6 directors on this project it also calls into question why The Terminal List fails to work. All the ingredients to make a thought-provoking thriller with politically relevant undertones is here. Chris Pratt has proven himself to be consistently bankable in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, not to mention a certain series of dinosaur centric tentpoles. Granted, in the case of those Steven Spielberg gravy trains quality might have dipped off slightly, but that can never be said of James Gunn’s contribution to the MCU.
Success has gifted Chris Pratt — for better or worse — a degree of leverage with studios to explore other projects specifically designed around him. The Tomorrow War, also on Prime Video, was a recent example of this which paid off, playing right into his wheelhouse as a Harrison Ford wannabe, which is exactly what The Terminal List should been. Unfortunately, for some reason this series fails to connect in quite the same way.
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Whether the presence of Constance Wu (Katie Buranek) as an investigative journalist feels laboured, or an extended cameo from Jeanne Tripplehorn as Secretary of State Hartley fails to matter, there is no denying this series has problems. Problems which stem from a lack of emotional investment, as not enough time goes into making audiences care.
As his world collapses around him and James is left with nothing more than vendettas to fulfil, The Terminal List runs out steam with several more episodes to go.
It is rare that people say the presence of Michael Bay on action duties would benefit any project, but at least with high octane sequences and whip pans aplenty, things might have been more engaging. As it stands, The Terminal List is best avoided by everyone except maybe some serious diehard fans.
That being said, there are certain actors who seem impervious to poor box office, irrespective of the roles they take on. However, is it any wonder that Hollywood A-listers are making a move towards streaming studios like Amazon and Netflix?
Where creative freedom, lucrative percent points and a guaranteed audience ensure the longevity of a film star long into their dotage.
The Terminal List premieres on Prime Video from 1 July. Watch a trailer below.