Luke Evans stars in “Echo 3,” a serviceable Apple TV+ military thriller created by Oscar winner Mark Boal.
Premiering Nov. 23, and based on an Israeli show (“When Heroes Fly,”) “Echo 3” follows Amber Chesborough (Jessica Ann Collins) an American scientist who goes missing while she’s on a research trip near the Colombia-Venezuela border. Her brother Bambi (Luke Evans) and her husband Prince (Michiel Huisman, “Game of Thrones”) — who both have military backgrounds in the Special Forces — don’t trust the CIA to get Amber back, so they team up to do it themselves.
To complicate matters, their most recent mission went wrong in a way that haunts both of them and has caused tension in their friendship. The two men also have different backgrounds; Bambi has a blue-collar upbringing and a mother struggling with addiction, while Prince was born into wealth (when he gets angry he calls Bambi a “redneck.”)
Boal ( “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and the Netflix military thriller “Triple Frontier”) is no stranger to the genre, and “Echo 3” marks his small-screen writing debut. It shows. The pacing often feels unwieldy and the focus is scattered. Boal’s skills are better-suited to a two-hour movie than a 10-episode series.
The story lurches between past and present, in ways that occasionally feels clumsy. (For instance, “Echo 3” begins with Prince and Amber’s wedding, in a long sequence that doesn’t feel like it has much purpose aside from giving Bradley Whitford a cameo as Prince’s dad). Viewers are informed that we are “six months earlier” than the previous scene, or “three months later,” in a way that feels haphazard.
The series flirts with several different ideas: contrasting Bambi and Prince’s backgrounds; providing commentary about the nature of war and military covert operations; contrasting their opulent homes with the developing countries in which they conduct missions; and the nature of addiction and the drug trade. But, otherwise, “Echo 3” doesn’t say anything particularly insightful about any of these topics before clearing its throat and moving on to the next action beat
All that being said, there is still a lot to like about “Echo 3.” The acting is solid, with Evans taking a believable turn as a brooding man who simmers with underlying emotion he can’t express (and the Welsh actor’s American Southern drawl is also convincing, to boot). The plot thrums with tension and urgency, and the action is consistent enough that it’s rarely boring, even if the story jumps around too much. And, to the show’s credit, it attempts to have more depth than a “shoot ’em up” story. Although Bambi and Prince (distractingly silly names) are the main characters, Amber isn’t just a damsel in distress, and she gets her own time to shine.
But most of their adversaries lack a clear sense of character. Boal tries to make them more than faceless “bad guys” but doesn’t quite pull it off, nor does all of the action and violence feel like it’s there for a reason.
If you’re looking for a military thriller, “Jack Reacher” is more fun. “Echo 3” is a fine enough diversion while viewers wait for better shows to return.