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Chris Ryan's Strike Back: Season 1 (Complete) - Review

Chris Ryan's Strike Back

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

CHRIS Ryan’s Strike Back was an ambitious big budget undertaking for Sky1 that aimed to prove the UK can compete with US shows such as 24 in making thrilling small screen experiences with big screen values.

Hats off, then, to the show’s creators for succeeding in that aim. Though flawed, the six-part series (screened on Sky as three double bills) was consistently exciting and visually captivating.

The set pieces were spectacularly and authentically staged, often capturing the fear and intensity of battle (not to mention the blood-shed), while the storylines themselves generally kept you gripped in spite of some dodgy scripts.

Based on ex-SAS man Chris Ryan’s best-seller, Strike Back follows the story of two former soldiers: discharged veteran John Porter (Richard Armitage) and Major Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln), whose lives first become entangled in Basra in 1993 when Porter leads a botched mission to rescue a kidnapped British businessman.

Seven years later, the two men are leading different lives. The former is guilt-wracked over the repercussions of the Basra mission, and the lives it cost, while the latter now has a prominent position within the government.

Yet when Collinson hands Porter a shot at redemption, by returning to Iraq to facilitate in the rescue of a kidnapped British journalist, his own complicity in the Basra situation is revealed.

Hence, a newly reinstated Porter bides his time flushing Collinson out, while also undertaking do-or-die missions in Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.

Armitage brought convincing muscular energy and wore the haunted look of a troubled but efficient killing machine in his portrayal of Porter, while the under-used Lincoln also excelled as his former friend turned nemesis.

There was also strong support from the likes of Orla Brady (as the kidnapped journalist), Shaun Parkes (as a betrayed assassin), and Jodhi May (as a reluctant colleague), as if to underline the show’s intent to be taken seriously.

It was a shame, then, that some of the meatier elements weren’t always given enough exposure. The tension between Porter and Collinson was left to simmer, without really coming to the boil, while the themes of guilt and sacrifice were only really touched upon fleetingly.

The script, too, veered towards the more macho and seemed more interested in quick exchanges than anything for the characters to really sink their teeth into. There were moments, such as Porter’s experience with a nun in the Zimbabwe segment, but these were mostly kept brief so as to get to the next action sequence.

And it’s during the set pieces that Strike Back really delivered, balancing some bone-crunching violence with the required excitement levels.

The ending of the final Afghanistan-set two-parter also left things open for a second series that, if commissioned, would be a very welcome return for the show.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 300mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 7, 2010