Chris Ryan's Strike Back - First two episodes reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
THE first two hours of explosive new Sky1 drama Chris Ryan’s Strike Back made for exciting viewing even if the politics and the script sometimes proved laughably gung-ho and naive.
Based on the popular best-seller by ex-SAS man Ryan, the six-part series follows former Special Forces man John Porter (Richard Armitage) as he attempts to atone for an apparent mistake that saw him being kicked out of the army in 2003 following a bungled rescue operation.
His chance comes in the present day when he is re-activated to join the hunt for kidnapped TV reporter Katie Dartmouth (Orla Brady) in the Middle East, before she is beheaded by an extremist group.
And so the ensuing two hours finds Porter in a race against time to beat the clock and restore his reputation.
So far, so 24 meets Bourne and Green Zone… but Strike Back does at least prove that Britain can deliver the type of small screen big budget shows to compete with its US counterparts.
The first two hours often made for thrilling viewing… especially during the final 45 minutes as Porter infiltrated the extremist group and attempted to extract Katie to safety.
The finale, meanwhile, set up an intriguing scenario from which to develop the subsequent episodes… as Porter uncovered an unlikely traitor in the Army’s midst and accepted the offer of re-instatment to pursue his enemy.
Strike Back has plenty working in its favour, not least an engaging central performance from former Spooks star Armitage, who comfortably juggles rugged charisma with no-nonsense physicality. In some ways, he resembles a slightly more clean-cut Hugh Jackman (from Australia).
A strong ensemble line-up also includes the ever-reliable likes of Andrew Lincoln, Jodhi May and Colin Salmon in key roles, lending weight and gravitas to the occasionally poorly written script.
Indeed, the only shame surrounding Strike Back‘s otherwise high production values is the loose nature of the script, which all too often reduces characters to stereotype and is a little too testosterine fuelled for its own good.
So far, it lacks the tautness of 24 or the complex political intrigue of a Bourne movie, even though the foundations have possibly been laid for future episodes.
In that sense, it’s also a blunt but no less effective instrument, which entertains in spite of its shortcomings.
It should therefore be extremely good fun to tune in for the remaining four episodes, as Porter heads back to Iraq and Afghanistan on various missions while trying to expose the real villain of the piece.
Chris Ryan’s Strike Back is on Sky1 on Wednesday nights from 9pm. This review relates to the opening two episodes on May 5, 2010.
- Strike Back - First two hours reviewed
- Dhafer L'Abidine interview
- Strike Back - Episodes 3 & 4 (Zimbabwe) reviewed
- Strike Back - Episodes 5 & 6 (Afghanistan) reviewed