As a reviewer, I don’t want things to be bad. Each time I receive an assignment, I’m hopeful that the series or film I’m tasked with reviewing will reaffirm my faith in art. And sometimes it does! Unfortunately, Echo 3 is not such a project.
Created by Mark Boal, the new Apple TV+ thriller series certainly has pedigree. After all, Boal is a screenwriter and producer who won Oscars with the 2009 film The Hurt Locker. While its cast isn’t as illustrious as the show’s creator, having a star like Luke Evans attached isn’t too shabby. And yet, the resulting drama is less than the sum of its parts. In fact, it’s borderline unwatchable.
Echo 3‘s inciting force is the disappearance of research scientist Amber Chesborough (Jessica Ann Collins), who goes missing along the Colombia-Venezuela border. When Amber vanishes, her husband Prince (Michiel Huisman), must join forces with her brother, Bambi (Luke Evans), to search for her. As a convenient source of narrative tension, both men happen to be in the same special forces unit of the American Military. And because Prince blames Bambi for the death of their colleague Drifter during an ill-fated mission, there’s a lot of bad blood between them.
The new thriller’s action sequences are as exquisitely choreographed as they are in Boal’s previous projects. But unlike The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty, there isn’t much else to this series. The characterization of the leads is one-note. For example, Jessica Ann Collins’ character bombastically declaring herself a “redneck”. She does this as she swans around the modern minimalist mansion she shares with her blueblood spouse. At times, the performance feels like Collins is engaging in some sort of Beth Dutton Cosplay. Prince is a similarly one-dimensional character. He’s defined by the fact that his father is rich and wants him to run for office. Bambi is perhaps the most interesting character. But that’s only because his Disney-inspired military codename is so at odds with his macho, muscled persona.
The show’s dialogue is another weak point. The characters’ conversations are dull and absurdly on-the-nose. One example of an underwritten scene is the moment when Prince insists his brother-in-law admit Drifter’s death is his fault. He declares that “Accountability is a bitch.” The confrontation could have stunned the audience with a knives-out row or treated us to a feast of simmering subtext. Instead, it’s just broad and boring.
The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty respectively addressed such real-life stories as The War in Afghanistan and the search for Osama Bin Laden. Meanwhile, Echo 3 has themes of geopolitics at its centre. Bambi and Prince must navigate a guerrilla war few Americans know is raging in South America if they hope to find Amber. But another project that uses white characters as an entry-point to discuss issues going on elsewhere in the world just isn’t what we need. Especially when the story is as shoddily told as Echo 3.
Ultimately, I’m panning this show not just because it’s bad, but because I know Mark Boal is capable of producing something good. And maybe next time, he will….
- Release Date: 11/23/2022