Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Echo 3, on Apple TV+

Every leftist guerilla organization always just turns out to be a drug-running terrorist group. It is hard to think otherwise, especially when you find yourself captured by one, like American research scientist Amber Chesborough. When a “new” revolutionary group takes her hostage in Colombia, they quickly put her to work in a drug lab owned and operated by the Venezuelan government. Ordinarily, her chances for release would be minimal, but her husband and brother are highly motivated special operators in creator Mark Boal’s Echo 3, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

The well-heeled Prince (indeed) and the white-trash Bambi just became brothers-in-law, but they still argue heatedly and increasingly bitterly. It will only get worse. Chesborough planned an expedition into the Colombian rain forest hoping to find natural compounds that could counteract the chemical effects of addiction. However, guerilla activity is the rise (real-life events have somewhat outstripped Boal’s series, considering the terrorists are now in power). It is a particularly fraught time for Chesborough to visit, since she may or may not have had freelance ties to the CIA that she tried to keep secret, even from her new husband. In retrospect, the military-grade tracking device he sewed into her pack was also a bad idea.

Graciela’s hipster terrorist gang is not about to release Chesborough anytime soon and the U.S. State Department is determined to avoid conflict, like always. However, the Colombian military is not wholly unsympathetic, even when Prince and Bambi start going rogue.

Echo 3
has a great premise (adapted from the Israeli series When Heroes Fly), executed with a very high degree of military, political, and cultural accuracy—at least based on the first five (out of ten) episodes provided for review. This series gives viewers an excellent sense of boots-on-the-ground realities in Venezuela and regions of Colombia. On the other hand, there are pacing issues, including an inconveniently slow opener (helmed by Pablo Trapero) and an entire episode devoted to one incident that easily could have been condensed to fifteen minutes or so.

Echo 3 has some nifty scenes of urban warfare and commando-style action. Boal, who wrote and produced Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, has solid understanding of and affinity for characters like Bambi and Prince. Most of their scenes ring true, while most non-political government officials, like the Embassy Chief of Mission, are crisply professional rather than lazy caricatures. Just wait till all the professionally over-sensitive-and-easily offended, who were so unhinged over The Terminal List get a load of Echo 3.

The series also has great sympathy for the average Colombians and Venezuelans who are suffering under leftist terrorism, who are embodied by Violetta Cardiz, a dissident Venezuelan journalist working in Colombia, whom the terrorists also target. Portrayed with great subtlety by Martina Gusman, Cardiz’s perspective and traumatic background really adds a lot to the series.

Luke Evans really nails the swagger of an operator like Bambi and he also conveys all the baggage that comes with it. This might the best work he has done in a series format. Michiel Huisman is appropriately slipperier as Prince. Plus, Maria del Rosario is quite chilling as the borderline-psychotic Graciella, so try not to think about how similar her rhetoric is to that of some current members of Congress.

Echo 3 were a little tighter, it would be more effective, but Boal and company clearly have a knack for staging special ops and the chaos they produce. It also shines a spotlight on the dangers within our own hemisphere. Recommended for fans of shows like SEAL Team, Professionals, and Terminal List, Echo 3 starts streaming today (11/23) on Apple TV+.