Echo 3 TV Review

Plot: When brilliant scientist Amber Chesborough vanishes along the Colombia-Venezuela border, her brother and her husband—both elite U.S. Army commandos—struggle to find her amid a guerilla war, discovering that the woman they love might have a secret.

Review: Mark Boal has made a career out of telling military stories. From those grounded in true stories (Zero Dark Thirty) to those inspired by reality (The Hurt Locker), Boal has also transitioned to action-oriented blockbusters like Triple Frontier. His latest project is Echo 3, an international espionage thriller full of gritty action and military tactics that attempts to tell a sociopolitical drama full of heavy stuntwork and complicated storytelling. Despite some truly pulse-pounding firefights that rival any of his big-screen efforts, Mark Boal’s characters cannot rise to the same level of complexity as the action sequences. Echo 3 is decent but far from as good as it should, or could, be.

Echo 3,Luke Evans,Mark Boal,Michiel Huisman

Echo 3 opens with a scene showing Amber Chesborough (Jessica Ann Collins) in the Venezualan jungle on her knees as armed soldiers hold her at gunpoint. Quickly flashing back six months earlier, we find Amber on her wedding day as she marries Prince (Michiel Huisman). Amber’s brother, Bambi (Luke Evans), is there and they celebrate but during the reception, they are called away on a mission. Both Bambi and Prince are part of a highly trained military unit and are deployed on a mission to Afghanistan where they suffer a major loss. The series then shifts three months later as Bambi and Prince are at odds with their roles in the botched operation. Amber, a scientist studying psychotropic plants, prepares to leave for Venezuala where she will be taken captive. The series then follows Amber’s journey in South America as well as Prince and Bambi’s off-the-books mission to save her.

As the series unfolds over ten episodes (five of which were made available for this review), Boal and his writing team craft a narrative that moves back and forth through the timeline while also shifting to give us the perspective of multiple characters. The bilingual nature of this series gives entire sequences in English as well as Spanish as the global cast tell a rescue story blended with a military angle focused on a secret guerilla war in Central and South America with deeper repercussions for all involved. This seems like it would make for an engaging and sprawling tale, but the lack of any focus on the main characters makes this extremely challenging. With Amber serving as the connection between Bambi and Prince, along with their shared military experience, I was expecting that there would be some sort of bond the three shared. But, Echo 3 doesn’t spend nearly enough time developing the chemistry between Collins, Evans, and Huisman so when multiple supporting characters enter the mix, it is very hard to follow them all with any sort of interest.

Jessica Collins is good as the kidnapped scientist and she gets one hell of a stunt showcase in the stellar fifth episode of the series, but it represents yet another chapter where the narrative stalls after building momentum from the prior hour. So many characters enter the story at different junctures that it is hard enough to keep track of them all, but the perspective follows many of them and abandons the main story threads we were invested into at that point. This leaves Luke Evans’ convincing performance as the protective older brother and Michiel Huisman’s wealthy and paranoid husband as two-dimensional cliches rather than well-rounded characters worth following. Couple that with intriguing characters played by Franka Potente, Martina Gusman, James Udom, and many more and we are left with too large of a cast in an unbalanced story.

With direction from Claudia Losa, Pablo Trapero, and Mark Boal in his directorial debut, Echo 3 is best when it is in action mode. The location filming in Columbia gives the series a realism that is lacking in some large-scale military projects and it does feel more realistic than recent series like The Terminal List, but it is also surprisingly critical of the countries it is set in, both Spanish-speaking as well as the United States. Echo 3 is critical of the types of secret wars waged without public knowledge and spends a great deal of time weaving the massive chess match that everyone from political figures down to the poorest villagers are involved in, but it struggles to give us enough time to really care about any of it. Episodes venture from rip-roaring gunfights to extended sequences of silence mixed with laborious dialogue that made me wonder how this series could be equal parts fascinating and boring. Inspired by the Israeli series When Heroes Fly, Echo 3 has some solid cinematography and a great score from Christopher Young but struggles to be as engaging as it should be.

Echo 3,Luke Evans,Mark Boal,Michiel Huisman

Echo 3 would probably have made a better feature film than a series with many of the subplots and characters not as important to the overall story as Mark Boal and his writing team thought. I would have enjoyed this series a lot more if it had spent more time focused on the three leads and the psychological and emotional impacts of this story on them as individuals and as a family. Not having seen the second half of the season, I cannot say for sure whether or not Echo 3 manages to pull everything together but based on just how much is happening in the first five episodes and how many characters and plot threads start in the fourth and fifth episodes along, I am not convinced that it will stick the landing. Overall, this is a great-looking series with some powerfully intense moments, but it lacks enough to make me feel invested in the characters to stick with it until the end.

Echo 3 premieres on November 23rd on AppleTV+.


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