Whether you love or hate Chris Pratt, the career he’s built for himself is certainly respectable. Initially breaking out as the lovable doofus Andy Dwyer in Parks & Recreation, Pratt soon was on his way to becoming of the one biggest movie stars in the business. He’s Star-Lord in the MCU, is one of the main faces of the massively successful Jurassic World films, and has lent his vocal talents to critically acclaimed animated flicks like The Lego Movie and Onward. Even in more straightforward action films like The Tomorrow War or The Magnificent Seven, Pratt has managed to bring in some of that goofy everyman presence that made him a star. That makes his involvement in the new Prime Video series The Terminal List a bit of a head-scratcher.
It’s not that The Terminal List is a bad show; it’s insanely entertaining, with some expertly shot and well-choreographed action set-pieces, and a serviceable, albeit cliché tale of revenge. In other words, it’s one of those shows your dad will love watching alongside new episodes of Jack Ryan and Bosch. But its overt self-seriousness and commitment to grit can often get in the way of allowing Pratt to be himself onscreen, or at least bring some of that charm that fans of his are familiar with.
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, The Terminal List centers around James Reece (Pratt), a Navy SEAL who returns home in a state of disarray after an operation gone terribly wrong leads to his entire platoon being ambushed. Upon his arrival back to the states, Reece begins to doubt his own memories and recollections of previous events and suspects that he may be one of those responsible for the attack on his platoon. When the blood and violence start to follow him back to the stateside, causing numerous personal tragedies and putting those he loves in danger, Reece takes matters into his own hands, embarking on a ruthlessly cruel path of revenge.
The Terminal List without a doubt delivers when focusing on its action. It’s a blend between Reacher and Commando, with shades of the anti-establishment and anti-war themes of First Blood. One may be quick to dismiss Pratt’s James Reece. He’s not your typical action hero, and some of the lengths he undertakes in his revenge tour would likely even make John Wick blush. There’s even a scene that feels straight out of Mortal Kombat, featuring Pratt’s Reece ripping out the intestines of an adversary and hanging him. It’s a pseudo-Punisher type tale and at times it’s hard to buy a typically likable presence like Pratt in this type of role. He has the physicality down, but there’s a bit of a disconnect, especially since the show’s writing often doesn’t do the audience any favors in knowing whether to condone the actions of his character. While it’s easy enough to buy into the misfortunes that plague its protagonist, the series never does enough to make James Reece feel human.
The supporting cast around Pratt is impressive, despite some being ludicrously underutilized. Taylor Kitsch‘s performance as Reece’s ally Ben Edwards is one of the biggest highlights of the series. Both Kitsch and Pratt are at their best in their scenes together, with authentic chemistry that makes the brotherly bond they have for one another palpable, and it’s their interactions that give the show the majority of its emotional elements. After initially risking overexposure in the early 2010s, it’s truly nice to see Kitsch getting these types of roles that genuinely bring out his charisma. Jai Courtney is another major standout as Steven Horn, a shady businessman who becomes one of Reece’s primary targets. Courtney seems to know the exact kind of project he’s in, feeling much more like the villain out of a nineties action flick but never feeling out of place, playing the kind of antagonist that you love to hate. Constance Wu is another winner amongst the ensemble as Katie Buranek, a journalist who becomes an unlikely ally to Reece. While an unlikely addition to the cast, Wu plays off both Pratt and Jeanne Tripplehorn extremely well. Riley Keough, who has proven in the past to be extremely talented, isn’t given much to do as Reece’s wife to make an impression, despite being listed in the main cast.
It’s the generic nature of the writing and execution that is the biggest hurdle for The Terminal List and in the end, it just barely squeaks by. The story itself is insanely predictable and even casual viewers will likely see every twist and turn the series throws at them within the first two episodes. Shows like Reacher succeeded in providing successful misdirects and revelations that had audiences at home jumping to the next episode. With The Terminal List, those who are willing to commit to all 50+ minute episodes, will likely just be tuning in to see what kind of crazy things Pratt does next. The series is undeniably watchable and despite the length of each episode, the story never feels too overstuffed to the point where it drags, but it is also far too simple and any moments of genuine excitement aren’t there.
The Terminal List is not some disaster, nor is it unwatchable. In fact, it’ll likely garner a huge following and become a hit for the streamer, but a film might have been the more beneficial route to take, especially for Pratt’s performance and the overall story. Prime Video has delivered plenty of action-revenge tales; in fact, they seem to have a firm grasp on it with films like Without Remorse, much like Netflix has a grasp on the romantic comedy genre. But at the end of the day, a story this simple shouldn’t be this damn long. Pratt has long shown an interest in portraying military roles on screen, as can be seen through his social media as well as his roles in films like Zero Dark Thirty. It’s no mystery what attracted him to this kind of project, and he is at the point in his career where he is free to take risks, but it comes at the cost of losing that natural charisma he’s brought to other roles. As a show to watch alongside your dad during the summer months, it’ll likely do the trick, but this isn’t the kind of show that’ll garner much discussion — at least until its inevitable second season.
The Terminal List premieres July 1, exclusively on Prime Video.